The Thunder-Grizzlies series has been one of the most surprising of the NBA playoffs. It was already shocking enough that it was set up after Memphis stunned top-seeded San Antonio to get to the next round. But then the series entered legendary status following the triple-overtime Game 4 that allowed Oklahoma City to tie things up at 2-2. However, the Thunder and Grizzlies had much less left over for Game 5, although Memphis paid for it a lot harder.
After an even first quarter, Oklahoma City utterly took control and drained all the suspense out early. The Thunder rallied from an early 18-point deficit in Game 4 before the Grizzles made rallies of their own to end regulation and the first overtime. Yet there would be no comebacks in Game 5, as the home team cruised to a 99-72 thumping.
Monday night’s playoff matches were highlighted by Memphis and Oklahoma City, although Miami and Boston had a much more hyped Game 4 when the night started. But on Wednesday night, the Heat and Celtics returned to the spotlight when Miami clinched its series, while the Thunder and Grizzlies had the decided undercard this time.
Game 5 was the first dud of the series, although Monday’s marathon served as a handy excuse. Yet the exhaustion only seemed to affect Memphis by the end, while Oklahoma City found a brand new way to win. Although neither Kevin Durant nor Russell Westbook scored over 20 points, the Thunder’s supporting cast made up for it in a rather important statement.
Durant and Westbook’s relationship, and the lack of shots from Durant for much of Game 4, made up a distracting subplot before Wednesday night. However, both of them didn’t need to be as dominant as usual; Oklahoma City may need to win games like that if it wants to go deeper.
This year’s playoffs have become quite noteworthy for all the new and semi-new teams that are making a run. The Thunder and Grizzlies may represent the new class of the NBA before long, although Oklahoma City may be a little bit further along in that quest. With one more win, Durant and company can take a giant step and face Dallas for the right to go to the finals.
However, Memphis still has one more game at home, where the Grizzles have only lost once in the postseason — and that took 15 extra minutes to do. This series has been defined by resilience from both sides, but has Memphis run out of it after lost chances on Monday and Tuesday?
Both will find out in Game 6 Friday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. By game time, this could be the only second round series left to go in these playoffs should Chicago finish off Atlanta Thursday.
Yahoo Sports (Associated Press) – “Durant, Thunder ease past Grizzles, 99-72”
NBC Sports.com- “Durant, Westbrook enigmas in Game 4 win”