Tied at 81-81 with 1:58 left to play, the Thunder suffered a two-minute meltdown Saturday in Memphis. Missed shots and silly fouls down the stretch doomed Oklahoma City to an 87-81 loss in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
Memphis did not hit a shot in those final two minutes, instead draining all six free throw attempts to ice the game.
The trouble started when Reggie Jackson was called for a charge as he looked to give the Thunder the lead at the 1:31 mark. Marc Gasol answered on the other end by drawing a foul on Serge Ibaka and draining both free throws to give Memphis the two-point lead.
Following a Thunder timeout, Durant missed a short jumper and Jackson committed a frustration-foul on Mike Conley. Conley hit both of his free throws and Memphis held an 85-81 lead.
The real blow occured on OKC's ensuing posession when the always-clutch Durant stepped to the line with a chance to cut the deficit to two. But Durant missed both free throws and the Thunder could feel its chances slipping away. Conley added two more from the line to put the final nail in the coffin.
The Thunder found themselves in trouble early in this one, trailing by as many as 10 early in the second quarter. But that's when Durant momentarily put the team on his back and willed Oklahoma City back into the game. Trailing 28-18 with nine minutes remaining in the second, Durant followed a free throw with a layup and a 3-pointer to pull the Thunder back within four.
Ibaka and Jackson followed with buckets as the Thunder completed a 10-2 run and turned a dangerous situation right back into a contest.
OKC outscored the Grizzlies 27-22 in the second and took a 45-44 lead into the break. Durant scored 16 in the half on 6-8 shooting but his teammates struggled, especially Ibaka. The fourth-year forward shot just 3-9 in the half and missed two open dunk attempts. The Thunder shot just 38.8 percent from the floor in the first two quarters.
The Grizzlies used a 7-0 spurt midway through the third to re-establish control with a 57-50 advantage. OKC battled back but still trailed 66-60 entering the game's final quarter. Gasol, who scored just four points in the first half, came alive for 12 points in the third quarter alone.
Memphis' lead grew as large as nine in the fourth, but the Thunder once again battled back. Trailing 77-70 at the 6:28 mark, OKC put together an 11-4 run to tie the game at 81-81. The run was capped by Fisher's 3-ball at the 1:58 mark and it was the last Thunder points of the day.
Durant led OKC with 25 points and 11 rebounds. It marks the 35th consecutive playoff game Durant has scored at least 20 points, dating back to a Game 6 loss in Memphis in the 2011 Western Conference Semis.
Reggie Jackson added 16 points and 10 rebounds while Kevin Martin added 13 off the Thunder bench.
Marc Gasol led Memphis with 20 points and nine rebounds. Conley and Allen added 14 points each while Zach Randolph was held to just eight points and ten boards.
The Thunder held a whopping 23-7 advantage in fast-break points and outscored the Grizzlies 44-30 in the paint. Those numbers are a dramatic improvement from Game 2, when OKC was outscored 50-30 in the paint and only managed seven fast-break points.
Oklahoma City shot just 36.4 percent from the floor and 27.8 percent from downtown. Memphis shot just 40.5 percent but nailed 23-28 from the line. OKC shot just 12-19 from the charity stripe.
Game 4 is set for Monday at 8:30 p.m. Since arriving in OKC, the Thunder has lost three of its four playoff games in Memphis.