The Thunder-Grizzles series was supposed to be the least appetizing of the second round. Since both teams are newcomers to this stage, they were expected to have less heat than the Heat-Celtics, Mavericks-Lakers and Bulls-Hawks showdowns. Instead, Oklahoma City and Memphis have captured the attention of the NBA, especially after a three-overtime marathon Monday that joined an elite group of playoff epics.
Although Oklahoma City could have won in regulation and the first overtime, Memphis stretched Game 4 out longer than almost any other in postseason history before finally going down. In fact, it was only the sixth playoff game to reach three overtimes or more, and the first to involve these franchises.
The Celtics are the masters at these long epics, however, as Boston has been in three of them. In fact, Boston won the longest game of all time, with a four-overtime win over the Syracuse Nationals in 1953. In addition, the Celtics prevailed in the famed three-overtime win over the Suns in the 1976 finals — yet Phoenix came back to win in three extra periods over Chicago in the 1993 finals.
Fittingly, both the Celtics and Bulls played in the last triple-overtime in Game 6 of their epic first round series in 2009. That classic had already been relived lately in ESPN’s new commercial with a talking basketball from that battle. But that night was part of a series that was already legendary, while the Thunder-Grizzles battle is just now hitting its stride.
Memphis and Oklahoma City each took convincing wins to start the series before things got really tight in Games 3 and 4. But despite playing four combined overtimes in Memphis, the Thunder and Grizzles are back to where they started, even now at 2-2 instead of 1-1.
Oklahoma City needed the win a lot more than Memphis did, especially with how the Thunder blew leads in regulation and the first extra session. But the Thunder has home court advantage right back, and the chance to steal momentum, after the Grizzlies missed a chance to take a decisive lead.
Game 4 was Memphis’ first home loss in the playoffs, so even if Oklahoma City loses in Game 5, the Thunder now knows that it can win at FedEx Forum eventually. But no matter how the rest of the series turns out, it may not match what happened Monday. After all, only a handful of playoff games have reached that level in NBA history.
Both teams have about 36 hours for some much-needed rest, since they need enough left in the tank for their even more important Game 5 Wednesday in Oklahoma City.
CBS Sports- “After marathon classic, Thunder-Grizzlies now NBA’s best show”
Commercial Appeal- “It was a privilege just to be at Game 5 of Grizzlies-Thunder series”