The Memphis Grizzlies were awfully lucky with how this game turned out. The Oklahoma City Thunder almost pulled off one of the best comebacks in the entire 2014 NBA playoffs so far on Tuesday night, as the team came back from a 20-point deficit only to lose by one point in overtime to Memphis 100-99.
The final tip in by Serge Ibaka was ruled no good on the court, and the Thunder will now have to travel to Memphis for Game 6 facing elimination in the series.
The Grizzlies played a dominant defensive game throughout most of the night on the Thunder. Overall, the Thunder shot 39.1% from the field, and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined to shoot 20-of-55 from the floor. Tony Allen and Mike Conley of the Grizzlies did their job guarding Durant and Westbrook as best as they could and limiting the amount of good looks they could get from the floor.
The area where the Thunder arguably struggled from the most during this game was in the turnover department.
Oklahoma City had 17 turnovers in the game. The team as a whole could not take proper care of the ball, making some sloppy passes and not having a tight handle on it. The Grizzlies are one of the best defensive teams in the league, and they took advantage of the opportunities in front of them on that end of the floor.
Despite all of the issues the Thunder had on the offensive end, they were still able to claw their way back into the game and force overtime against the Grizzlies.
Memphis had a 72-52 lead in the third quarter yet could not hang on to it. The Thunder were able to hit a few clutch shots late in the game as well as get to the free throw line and make good on their shots from the charity stripe. The fact the Grizzlies blew that large of a lead (largest thus far in the series) cannot bode well for the team moving forward. The Grizzlies are usually a team that can lock down opposing teams late in the game, but that did not prove to be the truth until their final push in overtime.
What does this blown lead mean for the Grizzlies in the rest of the series?
The Grizzlies are going to have to re-evaluate how they play defense late in games going forward. In the playoffs, hanging onto a lead is very important because every game counts. It is not like the regular season where a loss can come here and there and the team can be fine in the end. The playoffs are best-of-seven series, and every win is crucial; more wins early can mean more rest for your team before the next series. A careless loss or two can completely swing momentum and give the opposing team that edge to go on and dominate.
The Grizzlies will need to look at what they did for the first two and a half quarters on defense and make sure that game plan is carried out for the full 48 minutes in Game 6. Memphis will also have to make sure they keep going to Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol inside for easy baskets in order to slow down the tempo of the game, or else they may find themselves in a footrace that they cannot win, as this almost happened at the end of the game.
The Grizzlies are in full position to win this series, and the Thunder are the ones who need to be nervous going forward. With that being said, the Grizzlies cannot feel safe in the rest of the series because if they are not careful, the Thunder may sneak up on them and take Game 6 right from under their noses.
Pace will dictate this series as fans around the world gear up for the finale to a great playoff match up.
As long as the Grizzlies play the full 48 minutes, then they can close out the series at home and move forward. If they get lazy and leave openings for Oklahoma City, then they may find themselves in the high pressure situation instead of the Thunder.