Basketball / Sports

Grizzlies blow 20-point lead, then hold off Thunder in overtime for 3-2 series lead

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Memphis Grizzlies blew a 20-point lead but didn't miss an opportunity to put the Oklahoma City Thunder on the brink of elimination.

As you might guess, it took overtime for the Grizzlies to earn a 100-99 on Game 5 victory Tuesday night and leave Chesapeake Energy Arena with a 3-2 series lead.

Memphis can wrap up the best-of-seven, first-round playoff series Thursday night with a Game 6 victory in FedExForum.

No matter the outcome of the series, the teams will have played a classic given this was the fourth consecutive game that required an extra session. That's an NBA playoff record.

Griz coach Dave Joerger said before the game it was time for his squad to get some luck in the series. He got his wish on the last play of the game.

Oklahoma City had a chance to win with 2.9 seconds left. Serge Ibaka rebounded Kevin Durant's missed 3-pointer and scored a put-back basket.

But the shot came after the horn sounded, allowing the Joerger and the Griz to breathe a sigh of relief.

Mike Conley could exhale, too.

Memphis appeared to have the game won during regulation.

The Griz led 90-88 with the basketball and 20 seconds left to play. But Russell Westbrook swiped the basketball from Mike Conley at the top of the key, and raced the other way for an uncontested layup that tied the score with four ticks left on the clock.

Overtime ensued after the officials ruled that Zach Randolph's layup came after the buzzer.

A pair of Mike Miller free throws unknotted the game at 79, and the Griz never trailed again. Three times the Thunder got within a point but took ill-advised shots, mostly 3-pointers, when the Griz led 89-88.

Oklahoma City never led in the game until Durant's 3-pointer give it a 79-78 lead with 6:46 left to play. Even that advantage lasted just 21 seconds.

The Griz clung to a 76-70 lead entering the fourth quarter after watching the Thunder close the third on an 18-4 run. Memphis went three minutes without scoring.

Memphis took its largest lead in the series -- 72-52 -- late in the third period. But the Thunder responded with nine unanswered points. Kevin Durant and Caron Butler buried 3-pointers and then Ibaka converted a three-point play.

Oklahoma City used a 13-0 run to cut Memphis' lead to seven points before Griz guard Courtney Lee's two free throws ended their scoring drought.

The momentum shifted in a major way.

Only a few minutes earlier, Tony Allen flew by several Thunder players and tipped in a miss that gave the Griz a 68-52 lead. Westbrook grumbled near the basket while center Kendrick Perkins beyond the three-point line.

Oklahoma City's frustration continued to build as the crowd booed during a timeout down 18 points.

The Griz were in control of every aspect of the game at that point. Their defense again effectively stifled Durant. The Thunder started 3 of 4 from the field but then missed seven consecutive shots.

Memphis enjoyed crisp passing, deft shooting and numerous energy plays en route to a 55-43 halftime lead.

Joerger intimated before the game that there were no major adjustments left to be made in the series.

There was some truth to that statement because the Griz simply pummeled the Thunder with what they do best -- scoring inside.

Randolph entered the game shooting 36 percent in the series but emphatically looked to change his shooting woes early. Randolph connected on his first six shots. He challenged the Thunder big to deal with an array of offensive moves.

Randolph began with a jab step and mid-range shot over Perkins. Randolph then caught a pass at the free throw line and scored at the rim off the dribble. His third basket came after banging bodies with Perkins on the low block before Randolph made a quick, decisive power move to the basket for a layup.

Memphis began the game with a 10-2 lead.

(c)2014 The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.)

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