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


2011 NBA Playoff Preview – Semifinals Game 3 Recap

Western Conference Semifinal Game 5 - Oklahoma City 99, Memphis 72 - Thunder lead series, 3-2


After playing a knock-down, drag-out game that exceeded three hours in length, the two small-market squads who locked horns in the Western Conference semifinals had very little juice in the tank. In a battle of attrition which demanded an ample supply of fresh legs, it’s absolutely no surprise that Oklahoma City had too much speed and quickness for its opponent from the state of Tennessee.

Just two days after a brutal and physically taxing three-overtime thriller in Game 4, there was but one team on Wednesday night that looked particularly tired. It wasn’t the Oklahoma City Thunder. Using a 54-35 period of dominance which spanned the second and third quarters, the Thunder took the life out of the overwhelmed and physically spent Memphis Grizzlies before the fourth quarter ever began. The first four games of the series saw Thunder stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook put up gaudy scoring numbers. Game 5 was different. Seven Oklahoma City players, providing bench ballast to a team that was able to call upon more reinforcements following Monday’s triple-overtime epic, scored at least nine points and crafted an all-hands-on-deck dynamic that was too much for the eighth-seeded Grizzlies to handle. Led by Durant’s 19 points but carried by their balance, the Thunder zoomed past the dead-legged Grizzlies to take a 3-2 series lead as the teams head back to Memphis for Game 6 on Friday night in the flood-ravaged home of the blues.

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Memphis shot just 35 percent from the field in this game, a reflection of its utter lack of energy following Game 4. The misses were secured by Oklahoma City, which was accordingly able to get out in transition early and often. The Thunder had 50 rebounds and 20 fast break points, while Memphis – with seven minutes left in the third quarter – was sitting on 37 points, a testament to which the Grizzlies’ big men were simply gassed and depleted.



The Memphis front court duo, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, which has been terrific all postseason, was held in check. Randolph was just 3-of-9 from the field, finishing with nine points on a night when he looked slow and didn’t have his normal verve and vigor on the court. Gasol had 15 points, but his body was also noticeably dragging after lugging 57 minutes of court time on Monday night. Pau’s brother failed to be the difference maker he had been in previous games for the eighth seed. Memphis guard Mike Conley was just 4-of-16 from the field. He’s not a shooter to begin with, but he continues to take far too many shots for this team in the crucible of postseason pressure.

With Game 6 this Friday in Memphis, the Grizzlies should produce a stronger effort as they regain their legs following this expected dead-end of a duel. If Memphis can’t find a way to get its big men to play at their very best, Oklahoma City will reach the Western Conference finals for the very first time.

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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer

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