Game 5: Overtime, Again

In Historic 4th Straight OT Game, Grizz Prevail

Serge Ibaka’s put back off a Kevin Durant miss came a fraction of a second too late. Literally. A tenth of a second separated a 1 point, 100-99 Grizz overtime win, from a 1 point, 101-100 Thunder overtime win. Were you expecting anything less?

photo by Nikki Boertman

photo by Nikki Boertman

For the fourth consecutive game, the Grizzlies and Thunder played 48 minutes. And then they played 5 more. Because why the hell not? Never before has that happened in a playoff series. But never before has there been a series like Memphis-OKC. I understand that’s circular reasoning, but it’s true. Perhaps these teams will have beat one another to such a pulp that neither can move on to the conference finals, but regardless, this is something special, and we are witnesses…Lebron isn’t using that anymore is he?

It’s Miller Time

While Tony Allen continues to drop TA bombs on Kevin Durant, and thus the Thunder’s offense, the Grizzlies have suffered their own shooting woes. Mike Miller said no más. When Memphis won the Miller sweepstakes last summer, over OKC nonetheless, this is what they had in mind. Playing in all 82 regular season games was just an added bonus. Going 5-8 from downtown, and tying a season high 21 points, Miller led the way for Memphis as the team’s high scorer. A 27 foot bomb late in the second quarter was particularly memorable. Just a hunch, but I bet he likes deep dish pizza.

Below are Miller’s shoes from last night. On the swoosh he wrote “BORN 4 THIS”. Just above that reads, “I CAN’T, WE CAN”.

photo by Nikki Boertman

photo by Nikki Boertman

Joey Crawford Goes Rogue

The highlight package featured by most t.v. stations and websites focuses on an awkward moment, as Thunder coach Scott Brooks put it, when Kevin Durant was shooting two free throws near the end of overtime. With 27.5 seconds remaining, and the scoreboard reading 100-99, what would eventually be the final score, Joey Crawford went Joey Crawford. After making the first, Durant received the ball for his second attempt when suddenly, the [insert scathing adjective of choice] referee blew his whistle and demanded the ball back. He proceeded to approach the scorer’s table and verbally assaulted some poor soul for repeatedly failing to correct an error on one of the video boards in Chesapeake Energy Arena. The issue regarded team fouls…supposedly, but who knows. The 89% free throw shooter assumed to be MVP missed the attempt, when it finally came, and you know the rest. It was an awkward moment indeed, but it worked out for the Grizz. @corkgaines had a little fun, creating this gif.

@corkgaines had a little fun with it, creating this gif

@corkgaines

Westbrook Delusional 

In the post game interview, Westbrook and Durant came out looking like clowns, as usual. Most of the questions were directed at KD, but when Westbrook got a window, he delivered. He boasted that if given a 15 foot (jumper), he’d make it 9 times out of 10. 90% was his self-assessed shooting percentage. In reality, in this series, he has shot a blistering 6-of-23 from 8-16ft. That’s 26%. 90% is not 26%. 26% is not 90%. Unless you’re Russell Westbrook. Furthermore, he is 0-14 in all 4 overtime periods combined, with 1 point from the foul line. Westbrook is a top 10 athlete in the league, even after multiple knee surgeries. He’s clearly not a top 10 mind, though.

We love you Russ. But actually we despise you. But keep shooting.

 

Round 1: Stupid Good

In what is being dubbed the most exciting first round in recent memory, and probably ever, Memphis-OKC epitomizes the equality which has defined round 1.

Miami’s sweep. Not surprising. But then there’s everyone else. 8 seed Atlanta leads 1 seed Indiana 3-1. Brooklyn and Toronto are tied 2-2. Washington has just dispatched Chicago 4-1. Bulls fans, you’re not the only ones missing Derrick Rose. We hope he’s back soon, and better than ever. Then there’s the West.

Grizz-Thunder and Rockets-Trailblazers has contained enough overtime to comprise 48 minutes of a regulation game, or at least enough heartbreak. The Grizzlies lead 3-2 and can close out Thursday, while Portland can clinch tonight as they have a 3-1 advantage. Also tonight, Dallas and San Antonio will break their 2-2 deadlock. The Clippers now lead 3-2 over Golden State, just after Commissioner Silver’s lifetime ban reigned down upon Donald Sterling. This is why we love the NBA playoffs.

-Travis Nauert

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If someone told you…

If someone told you these things following Game 4, which you didn’t see because you live under a rock, what would you say?

  • The two teams combined for 181 points
  • Westbrook and Durant combined for 30 points on 11-45 shooting
  • That 11-45 included just 2-13 from 3
  • The Grizzlies won the turnover battle 13-21
  • The Grizzlies outscored the Thunder in the paint
  • TA, Marc, and Mike Conley all posted double-doubles

Surely, you would think, the Grizzlies won, now lead the series 3-1, and will look to close out the Thunder in OKC. But the basketball gods are of a cruel, rigid, and sleazy variety. They summoned the one, the uncontainable, Reggie Jackson to do their bidding.

It was just another bizarre twist in an already bizarro series. For the first time since 2009 when Boston defeated Chicago (4-3) en route to the NBA Finals, a playoff series saw three consecutive games reach overtime. The Boston series had 4 games go to extra time, including a double OT game 1, won by Chicago in Derrick Rose’s playoff debut, and a triple OT game 6, also won by the Bulls despite Ray Allen’s 51 points. In fact, the Bulls won 3 of the 4 overtime games, but were deemed not worthy by the aforementioned harlots that reign over this great sport. Oh, and that series was a 2 vs 7 matchup as well.

The feeling in my gut is all too similar to that of 2011, when Memphis stole an early game in OKC, came home to win game 3 in overtime, and then dropped a heartbreaking game 4, of course featuring more free basketball. It’s easy to forget how terrible things looked in the second and third quarters last night, and how little business the Grizzlies had being in the game at the end. But that’s why you play all 48 scheduled minutes. And then probably 5 extra minutes. Tony Allen summoned his demigod will power to snag rebounds and ensure that Kevin Durant would not touch the ball down the stretch. Unfortunately, there is only one Tony Allen, while there is also a Kevin Durant and a Reggie Jackson. Westbrook and his 7 turnovers are very fortunate and much appreciated.

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Conley kept Memphis in the game, but OKC finally prevailed, ending a franchise record 15 game home win streak.

Jackson scored 32 points in 37 minutes off the bench, while most of the Grizzlies guards and reserves spent the night snoozing. Conley roused late with some key drives and steals, but is now just 2-20 from three in the series. 2-20. 10%. That has to improve if Memphis is going to win two of the next three games. So does free throw shooting, but that’s a perpetual goal of any basketball player in the Memphis city limits: grade school, high school, college, professional, church-league. They all need help. Dare I suggest granny style?

An opportunity was lost, but games 2 and 3 showed the mental toughness this team possesses. OKC knew going down 3-1 was essentially a death sentence, and they responded with the same poise that Memphis did after blowing a lead.

Here’s some fuzzy math. Memphian diets (a function of appetite, and fried chicken + barbeque available per square mile) + Grizzlies playoff basketball = decreasing future life expectancies. This is wearing me out. I’ll leave you with another ode to Hunter S. Thompson via Ralph Steadman. This is how I suggest you watch the remaining games. Jesus! It’s for your health man!

Ralph Steadman

Ralph Steadman

-Travis Nauert

Keeping things light in the post season

Any team in the playoffs sees a significant increase in media attention, but there’s just something about the way the Grizzlies do it.

From wild outfits, to enormous amounts of sass, to your average press conference entertainment, here’s a look at the fantastic media coverage of the Grizzlies/Thunder series. It’s a clown show, really.

Russell Westbrook wasn’t aware of the Grindhouse.

In an interview with Jarvis Greer of Action News 5, Russell Westbook refused to accept the FedEx Forum’s beloved nickname. He interrupted Greer after her referred to the Grindhouse, insisting that the gorgeous arena be known exclusively by its sponsor-given name. Here’s how it went down according to the Commercial Appeal:

He was responding to a question from one of Memphis’s longest-tenured TV sports anchors, Jarvis Greer, that went like this: “Your road record is one of the best in the NBA but talk a little bit specifically about playing here in the Grindhouse against this team.”

Westbrook gave Greer a bit of a quizzical look and said, “You said the FedExForum? That’s the name of the arena, right?”

To which, Greer answered in the affirmative. Then Westbrook continued: “Uh, playing at the, uh, FedExForum , it’s a good arena, the fans are loud and they cheer on their team and we just gotta come in and play our game.”

 

A little tense, Russell?

Russell-Westbrook-Returns-To-Practice.

Trick or Treat

Tony Allen is currently OWNING the leading scorer in the NBA, Kevin Durant, so you know he’s having one heck of a week. His dominance in this series with OKC has earned him quite a bit of time in the media, and I must say he has composed himself pretty well so far. I’m so proud. But the rest of the nation is getting just a taste of what Grizz Nation already knows. You know you’re special when you have more than one unforgettable nickname.

I can answer that for you, Bill- Tony Allen- *Future Voice*

 

That time Kendrick Perkins sat on Mike Miller

Hey, Kendrick Perkins, take a seat. Wait, no, not there.

On thursday night, Perkins decided to stop time, if just for a moment, and take in the glory of Grizz Nation. On top of Mike Miller. Hilarity ensues.

 

(SB Nation)

(SB Nation)

 

 

(SB Nation)

(SB Nation)

 

Things get a little weird afterhours in the Forum

If you’ve been to a Grizzlies game you know about Super Grizz, the Grannies and Grandpas and the leaping Elvis impersonators. If you haven’t been to the FedEx Forum… well, you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog.

 

And I don’t even know what to say about this:

Please say this was a joke. Please say this was a joke.

 

It’s a slippery slope, Mike. Turn back while you still can!!

(businessinsider.com)

(businessinsider.com)

 

As we all prepare ourselves for the game tonight, I want to leave you with one image. It’s an oldie but a goodie courtesy of Zach Randolph. I just couldn’t end this post without mentioning Z-Bo.

 

One love, Grizz Nation.

 

-Casey Black

Just that Classic Grit n Grind OT

Moments after defeating the Mavs in overtime in that last regular season game, midway through a well-deserved celebration for dodging the Spurs, I realized what situation we had put ourselves in. The Grizzlies would be facing OKC, a true juggernaut- a team with one of the best benches in the league, a team that matched up with use at every position.

Oh, and the team with the best scorer in the league.

And they have Westbrook this time. Westbrook’s injury added an asterisk to the end of our 2013 Playoff victories against OKC, always reminding us that sure we beat them, but we beat them while they were down. Well, it looks like those days might just be behind us.

I knew this time would be entirely different, but I didn’t anticipate this. We’re up 2-1 on the series with two overtime victories and we’ve still got one game at home before heading back to OKC.

IMG_8944

It seems that we’ve kind of figured them out. The keys to defeating a powerful offense like the Thunder sound something like this:

o   Keep them out of the paint

o   Force them to shoot tough, mid-range jumpers

o   Contest their threes

o   Force turnovers and capitalize on them

That’s the only way to beat the Thunder, and after Game 3, you can put a check mark by each one. It was our second overtime game in a row. It’s not the easy way to do it, but no one ever said grit n grind was the easy way.

Tony Allen is doing what he does best. He’s effectively stopping Kevin Durant in a way no other defender can. Sure Durant is still scoring 30+ points as ESPN likes to remind us daily, but he’s taking more shots than ever to get that done. I feel like this series is a waiting game- we’re all just waiting for Durant to go off. As I sit here and write this post, I’ve already seen Durant on two commercials in five minutes. Its like the basketball gods are dangling him in front of me, hinting at the inevitable.

Much of our success is likely due to Joerger’s exquisite coaching. He’s schemed the team perfectly, and the game plan is spot on- force Durant and Westbrook to take the tough jumpshots. Credit should be given to Tony Allen and Courtney Lee for being the ones to contest those jump shots. Tony Allen is the thorn in Durant’s side right now, and simply put, its hilarious. It never gets old.

(Photo Cred: Jason Smith's Twitter)

(Photo Cred: Jason Smith’s Twitter)

Tony has definitely earned those podium interviews.

 

 

 

 

 

Looking forward to Game 4, nothing should change. It will never be easy, but we have a huge advantage in the FedEx Forum. Russell Westbrook may not have been familiar with the Grindhouse, but the boys definitely gave him the full tour on Thursday night. That’s the great thing about the Grizzlies- they don’t expect to be respected. They earn respect by playing hard every night and giving Memphis something to Believe in. And I Believe tonight’s going to be a good night.

IMG_0813OKC @ Memphis

9:30 pm (ET)

ESPN

 

-Casey Black

Fear and Loathing in OKC

He chuckled. “As your attorney,” he said, “I advise you not worry.” He nodded toward the bathroom. “Take a hit out of that little brown bottle in my shaving kit.”

   “What is it?” 

   “Adrenochrome,” he said. “You won’t need much. Just a little tinytaste.”

   I got the bottle and dipped the head of a paper match into it.

   “That’s about right,” he said. “That stuff makes pure mescaline seem like ginger beer. You’ll go completely crazy if you take too much.”

…My body felt like I’d just been wired into a 220 volt socket.


   It was after midnight when I finally was able to talk and move around . . . but I was still not free of the drug; the voltage had merely been cranked down from 220 to 110. I was a babbling nervous wreck, flapping around the room like a wild animal, pouring sweat and unable to concentrate on any one thought for more than two or three seconds at a time.

-Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

 

Hopefully, you’ve read that book, or at least seen the movie. But even if you haven’t, I’ll take it that you can sympathize with why these lines came to mind after Monday night’s game 2 between the Grizz and Thunder. As midnight passed, I struggled to hit my REM cycle with an exam approaching in just over 12 hours. I was jacked up on adrenochrome. Ok, it was just regular naturally secreted adrenaline, but a deluge had flooded my bloodstream.

It’s likely that some residual pain from the 3 OT loss will always linger, but for now, most of it has dissipated. Just as Mike Conley and Greivis Vasquez connected on desperation heaves forcing extra time in that classic three years ago, last night Kevin Durant and Kendrick Perkins added to the archive of highlights which exemplify the ongoing roshambo that is the Grizzlies-Thunder rivalry. The unfortunate nature of those specific highlights, for Memphis fans in 2011 and now Oklahoma City fans in 2014, is that they came in losing efforts.

Up 5 with under 30 seconds remaining, a glimpse of light shone on the Grizzlies as they had seemingly done enough to split on the road and head home with the series tied 1-1. Then Kevin Durant happened.  A near Tony Allen steal turned into a freak 4 point play as Marc Gasol hip checked KD, who simultaneously saved a dangerous Westbrook pass (Westbrook out of control, no way?) and launched a shot from the corner as he fell into court-side seating. It was the only thing, aside from choking at the foul line, which Memphians know too much about, that could have kept OKC alive. And it did.

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

On the last play of regulation, after a split pair of Conley free throws, Westbrook bombed a potential game winning three, but it hit the front iron and bounced far side into the hands of the bumbling Kendrick Perkins. K-Perk put the ball off the glass for his first and only shot attempt of the game. The ball travelled the circumference of the rim as if by habit, confused by the accuracy of his placement and expecting to finagle its way out of the basket. Eventually, it dropped through the net and on the game went to extra time, tied at 99.

Not to worry. Zach went ham, as in hamburglar, taking what was rightfully his in overtime and outscoring the Thunder by himself 8-6. The Grizz went up for good with 26 seconds remaining as TA dropped a sly dish to ZBo on the left post that he finished calmly.

(Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)

There were many noteworthy contributions. Mike Miller’s three late in regulation off a Conley assist regained a briefly squandered lead. Beno Udrih’s 14 points came on 6-8 shooting. The latter sparked a series of puns including Geoff Calkins’ claim that Beno gave Memphis “a shot of Udrihnaline”, especially appropriate for this post. Courtney Lee had a quiet 16 points, if there ever were such a thing for this frequently offensively challenged team. Despite feeling the force of Serge Ibaka’s league leading shot blocking ability, Ed Davis provided a quick burst of energy with 6 rebounds and 2 blocks in 9 minutes.

And then there was The Grindfather. 8 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 steals fail to measure his effect on the game and importance to the team. Throughout, and especially down the stretch, TA made OKC players and fans wildly uncomfortable. Whether through face guarding, fronting, or denying the passing lane, Tony did it all. He would even switch off Durant and onto Westbrook in the same possession, effectively blowing the Thunder’s mind and dropping a TA bomb on their offensive sets. It was vintage Tony Allen. Enjoy:

Ok, so his poise and decisiveness on the fast break and offensive end wasn’t necessarily vintage, but it was brilliant.

The emotion that followed the final buzzer was one part relief, one part elation, and two parts I need new underwear. The win shifts home court advantage in Memphis’ favor as the series moves to the Grindhouse for games 3 & 4. The Grizz look to extend a franchise record 14 game home win streak.

Last night saw some milestones reached as well, with Memphis donning Beale Street Blue for the first time in playoff history. Also, Coach Joerger earned his first playoff victory. Congrats, Coach. Joerger-bombs for everyone!

 

-Travis Nauert

Bound 4

We did it. Grizz Nation hurled constant positive energy in the mix and we did it. The Grizz have made the playoffs for the fourth season in a row (hence the Kanye West play on words in the title). We hit 50 wins on the season, but more importantly, we dodged the Spurs, ladies and gentlemen. But what now?

 

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

You have to admit it’s pretty funny: all of this focus on achieving the 7th spot. We detested sitting in the 8th spot, not because we were at the bottom of the pack; because we were on the fast track to facing the most formidable NBA team in recent memory. The funniest part of the whole thing is that the Western Conference regular season ended as a “Don’t Play the Spurs Bowl” (as my friend Clayton so eloquently put it). While defeating the Mavs and stealing the 7th seed in that last game of the season, I wasn’t thinking about victory. No no. I was laughing and thinking, “Have fun with the Spurs, suckas.” The Spurs haunt my dreams and for good reason.

Maybe the joke’s on us. If this was the Eastern Conference, Grizz Nation would be looking at a 3 seed. The competition in our conference is disgustingly fantastic. The combined regular season wins of all Western Conference teams is the most in history since the 8-team playoff format. 

We did all that work just so we could avoid Pop and his incredibly efficiently yet boring lineup. And look what we’ve got now- one of the most exciting teams in the NBA, The Oklahoma City Thunder. But we play that game better than anyone. We’re exciting and thrilling and, at times, wonderfully horrifying. 

Here’s what we’re working with:

Game 1, April 19, Memphis at Oklahoma City, 9:30 p.m. EST (ESPN)

Game 2, April 21, Memphis at Oklahoma City, 8:00 p.m. EST (TNT)

Game 3, April 24, Oklahoma City at Memphis, 8:00 p.m. EST (TNT)

Game 4, April 26, Oklahoma City at Memphis, 9:30 p.m. EST (ESPN)

Game 5, April 29, Memphis at Oklahoma City, TBA (if necessary)

Game 6, May 1, Oklahoma City at Memphis, TBA (if necessary)

Game 7, May 3, Memphis at Oklahoma City, TBA (if necessary)

 

(Photo Cred- Joe Murphy)

(Photo Cred- Joe Murphy)

 

So, I’d like to say congrats to Joerger for his title of Western Conference Coach of the Month. Oh, and he also just wrote himself into the Grizzlies history books with this playoff appearance in his first season as head coach.

Let’s take this post season one game at a time. I’m not going to speculate or make any predictions today. This could really go either way- since our last meeting on February 28, the Thunder haven’t been playing their best and we’ve done relatively well. I do, however, have a hunch that we could split the first two games in OKC. Just a hunch.

Until then, you can find me at Silky’s watching it all unfold with greatest folks on the planet. Yeah, that’s right. I’m in Memphis.

Memphis Grizzlies @ OKC Thunder

ESPN

Tipoff: 8:30 pm (ET)

 

Man Down

Grizz Nation always loves their team in the national spotlight. Any coverage on ESPN is good coverage, especially leading up to the playoffs right?

Ehhh…. this isn’t what we had in mind. 

Joe Murphy

Joe Murphy

 

No word from Calathes on Twitter yet, but he has come out with a statement.

In a phone interview with USA Today, Calathes says,

“I deeply regret my actions and apologize to my teammates and the organization for my poor judgment. Let me be clear: I never too any medication whatsoever for a performance-enhancing reason. I don’t agree with this outcome, and I will come back a better player and person when I return.”

Here’s the science-y part:

Tamoxifen is the drug found in Calathes’s system. The funny thing about Tamoxifen is that it is typically used by athletes to reduce the side effects of steroids. More commonly, its used to treat breast cancer. SO many questions.

Just when we were getting comfy with Calathes. #smh

Calathes was named the 5th best rookie this season by ESPN’s Power Rankings. The NBA confirmed Calathes’s suspension Friday night- it’s 20 games, so virtually the whole post season and then some (assuming we don’t make a wild run for the Finals).

Here’s a statement from a lawyer representing Calathes according to ESPN.com:

“Our tests identified tamoxifen in a supplement Nick used for a legitimate medical condition and our tests confirmed that Nick did not have testosterone or any other PED in his body- thereby rebutting the presumption that he used tamoxifen to offset the side effects of testosterone use,” he said. “Despite this irrefutable, objective scientific evidence, the NBA’s response was, ‘Oh well.’

 

Photo cred- hoopshype.com

Photo cred- hoopshype.com

 

 

 

We know, Nick. It hurts.

 

 

 

-Casey Black