Quantcast 2011 NBA Western Conference Playoffs: Semifinals - Memphis vs Oklahoma City


2011 NBA Playoff Preview – Semifinals Game 3 Recap

Western Conference Semifinal Game 3 - Memphis 101, Oklahoma City 93 – Grizzlies lead series, 2-1


At the end of three quarters it looked as if the hot run of the Memphis Grizzlies through this year’s NBA postseason was about to get a splash of cold water.

Never fear, Russell Westbrook was there to save the day for his opponent, lifting the Grizzlies to their fourth home-court playoff win in as many contests. In one quarter plus one overtime period, the Oklahoma City Thunder relinquished their hammer-lock grip on Game 3 of this Western Conference semifinal series… and, quite possibly, the entire series itself.

For 36 minutes on Saturday evening at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, the visiting Thunder dominated the flow of play. They led 76-63 and were just 12 minutes away from regaining home court advantage and taking control of the series. The eighth-seeded Grizzlies looked like a number-eight seed, outfoxed on the wings and controlled in the paint, as the series’ key confrontation in the paint was won by Oklahoma City. The Thunder’s combo of Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins outplayed Memphis bigs Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, repeating the Game 2 narrative while preventing the Grizzlies’ desired Game 1 storyline from emerging once again. Oklahoma City contained Memphis within eight feet of the rim, thereby magnifying its advantage on the perimeter. Part of that advantage lay in the hands of Westbrook, who – for three quarters – orchestrated the offense and spread the ball around.

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In the fourth quarter, Westbrook took over… but not in a good way. The results could be disastrous and quite profound for Oklahoma City, not just in the coming weeks, but the coming years.

Yes, Memphis simply refused to give up. Still trailing by 11 points with 7:41 to go, the Grizzlies went on a 13-2 run over three and a half minutes to tie the score at 84. Credit the Grizzlies for their fight, but it has to be said that Westbrook was the main reason for the eighth seed’s comeback. Westbrook simply would not allow his team’s meal ticket, Kevin Durant, to get the ball when the two men established a passing lane at the top of the key. Westbrook turned into a one-man jump shot factory, robbing the Thunder of the flow and movement it had established through three quarters. The black-hole effect of Westbrook’s ballhogging ways ground the Thunder’s offense to a halt, feeding Memphis’s confidence and allowing the Grizzlies’ defense to find its footing. The refusal to share the ball drove a wedge through the Oklahoma City offense that could create lasting divisions on a team that how has its own share of trust issues in the Western Conference semifinals. If you thought the Los Angeles Lakers were the only team with internal divisions, the Thunder have now become a second squad being torn apart from within.

With chances to win the game in regulation, both squads were unable to make the big shot. Both Durant – taken out of rhythm by Westbrook’s one-man act - and Randolph missed potential game-winning attempts in the final five seconds of regulation. Overtime followed but the story of the last few minutes of regulation carried into the extra period. The Grizzlies dominated the stagnant Thunder at both ends in overtime, capturing a 2-1 series lead in the process and giving the fans in Memphis serious hope for advancing to the Western Conference finals.


It should have never come to this point for the favored Thunder. Despite having the two-time reigning scoring champ at its disposal, Oklahoma City was unable to get Durant the basketball. Westbrook continues to struggle from the field, and more importantly, with his decision-making process. Westbrook had 23 points, but needed 22 shot attempts; he dished out 12 assists, almost all of them in the first three periods, but had 7 turnovers as well. It was night to forget for Durant as well, for when he had chances to make shots in the final few minutes of regulation and overtime, he simply wasn’t himself. Westbrook, his teammate, took him out of any kind of rhythm.

Zach Randolph had 21 points and 21 rebounds, willing the Grizzlies to victory alongside Tony Allen, who locked down on Durant in the final minutes of regulation and all five overtime minutes. Memphis won despite shooting just 37 percent from the field. That’s what happens when your opponent has “trust issues” that will need to be solved in Game 4.


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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer

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