Unbearable: Grizzlies Hold Off Thunder; End OKC's Season

Thursday, May 16th 2013, 12:22 am
By: News 9

Game. Set. Season.

In yet another down-to-the-wire slugfest, the Grizzlies did Wednesday what they found a way to do all series: survive. 

Kevin Durant saw a potential game-tying jumper bounce off the rim with just seconds remaining as the Thunder lost another heartbreaker 88-84 and now heads to the offseason wondering what could have been with Russell Westbrook.

Memphis wins the series 4-1 and will head to the Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.  Meanwhile. the Thunder was eliminated Western Conference Semifinals for the first time since arriving in Oklahoma City. 

Similarly to Game 4 in Memphis, the Thunder got off to a fast 7-0 lead. Also like Game 4, the Grizzlies stormed right back.

Mike Conley and Zach Randolph got going for Memphis and evened things out rather quickly. Each guy scored five points as the Grizzlies built a 16-15 lead at the 2:10 mark of the first quarter.

The Thunder responded, closing the period on an 8-2 run to take a 23-18 advantage. OKC's five-point lead came despite Durant's ice-cold shooting. Durant finished the first just 1-8 from the floor with four points.

The start of the second quarter was a change of scenery from the first for OKC. Quincy Pondexter and Jerryd Bayless opened the period by splashing 3-pointers as the Grizzlies exploded on an 11-1 run to take a 29-24 lead. But, as we've seen so many times in this series, it got tight again quickly.

Durant and Reggie Jackson combined for nine quick points as the Thunder got back within one at 36-35 at the 6:13 mark. And while it looked like another back-and-forth affair, things turned sour fast.

It seemed impossible at the time, but that was the Thunder's last basket of the half. Memphis ended the second quarter on a 14-3 run to seize a 50-38 lead at the break.

The Thunder was outscored 32-15 in the second quarter as they struggled mightily to score the ball. OKC shot just 32.5 percent in the first half including 1-8 from downtown.

The two teams swapped buckets for the first half of the third quarter as Memphis took a 60-46 lead into a timeout at the 7:09 mark. But after the timeout, the Thunder made a move.

Durant followed a free throw with a 14-foot jumper to get within 11 at the 6:15 mark. Then things really turned in OKC's favor when Derek Fisher sank a 3-ball from the corner to bring the Thunder within nine. As Fisher released his shot in front of the Grizzlies' bench, Tony Allen accidentally let his sweat towel fly out of his hand on onto the court. The towel toss earned Allen a technical foul, which allowed Durant to sink the technical free throw, give the Thunder a four-point possession, and cut the deficit to seven. More than anything, it got the crowd back into the game and gave the Thunder a legitimate belief that the game was still in winnable.

Oklahoma City closed the third quarter on a 16-4 run and trailed 64-62 entering the game's final stanza.

But in this game of runs, the Grizzlies had one more left in them. Memphis began the fourth on a 12-2 run to increase its lead to 76-64, and the Thunder looked sunk.

Memphis held a 12-point lead when it called for a full timeout at the 3:18 mark of the fourth quarter. But when the two teams retook the court, OKC made one last push.

And it was a doozy.

Two Serge Ibaka dunks and a Fisher 3-ball immediately cut the lead to 80-75 at the 1:31 mark. Allen answered with a layup and a free throw for Memphis, but it didn't deter the Thunder. Nick Collison finished back to back layups and OKC was within 83-79 with 49 seconds left.

The run was aided by Randolph missing three out of four free-throw attempts as the Thunder continued to foul to stop the clock.

Trailing 86-84 with 10 seconds left, OKC got one last chance and the ball went to Durant. But as has been the case in the final minutes all series long, Durant couldn't find the range. His 15-foot jumper missed to the left and the Thunder was forced to watch the towel-thrower himself, Tony Allen, ice the game at the line.

Durant shot just 5-21 Wednesday (his worst shooting game of the season) and collectively shot just 1-11 in the final two minutes plus overtime of Games 2-5.

Even with Durant's struggles, his 21 points led OKC in scoring. Ibaka added 17 and eight boards while Jackson added 16. Kevin Martin chipped in 10 off the Thunder's bench.

Randolph led Memphis with 28 points and 14 rebounds while Conley dished out 11 assists to go with his 13 points.