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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Grizzlies rally from 16 down to top Thunder in OT, take 2-1 lead

Sunday, May 8, 2011

MEMPHIS ? In need of a spark, Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins went to an old flame.

  • O.J. Mayo (32) scored 18 points off the bench to help the Grizzlies rally in the second half and beat Kevin Durant (35) and the Thunder.

    By Mark Humphrey, AP

    O.J. Mayo (32) scored 18 points off the bench to help the Grizzlies rally in the second half and beat Kevin Durant (35) and the Thunder.

By Mark Humphrey, AP

O.J. Mayo (32) scored 18 points off the bench to help the Grizzlies rally in the second half and beat Kevin Durant (35) and the Thunder.

O.J. Mayo revitalized a struggling offense with his best game of the postseason, scoring 18 points and making key defensive plays down the stretch as the Grizzlies pulled out an unlikely 101-93 overtime win Saturday before a sellout crowd of 18,119.

The Grizzlies overcame a 16-point deficit to take a 2-1 lead in this Western Conference semifinal series and stayed undefeated at home in four playoff games.

Mayo, a 6-4 shooting guard who was a starter, was relegated to a reserve role early this season. The Grizzlies even tried to trade him to the Indiana Pacers, but the deal wasn't allowed because it wasn't filed before the Feb. 24 deadline expired.

Still, Mayo never lost confidence in his shot, or his defense.

He harassed guard Russell Westbrook into 7-for-22 shooting as the Grizzlies held the Thunder to 10 points in the fourth quarter to tie the score at 86 and force the extra period.

"O.J., that boy's been positive," said power forward Zach Randolph, who had 21 points and 21 rebounds and often encouraged Mayo not to sulk in his reduced role. "He's been working on his game doing extra late night. He comes to the gym. The kid did great.

"He had a tough year. I give him kudos. He got on Westbrook tonight, that's the game-changer."

Thunder forward Serge Ibaka was a difference-maker early, knocking down open mid-range jumpers and finishing with 14 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots. He made it difficult for the Grizzlies' big men to get clean looks at the basket.

The turning point, however, came after Memphis coach Lionel Hollins elected to start Mayo in the second half ahead of Sam Young. The Grizzlies' offense had become stagnant, shooting at just a 39% clip in the first half.

So Hollins went to a smaller lineup and lectured his perimeter players during intermission. That included playing Shane Battier at power forward.

"He told us that a lot of games,our big fellas have really stepped up for us and pulled us through in tough moments. Tonight, they were having a tough moment in the first half and he was like, 'We need the perimeters to step up and have their backs tonight,' "Mayo said.

"We took that in the right way and we came out really aggressive in the second half."

By putting Mayo on the speedy, high-flying Westbrook, the Grizzlies were able to keep him out of the lane, where he does the most damage. That was partly why Ibaka only had two points after halftime as the Thunder's post players' touches were limited inside.

It also preserved Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley for the stretch run. He only had four points at halftime but finished with 18 on 8-for-15 shooting in 47 minutes.

"Mike had played so many minutes," Hollins said. "They're the same size, so we didn't have to worry about him shooting over him or overpowering him in the post. It gave Mike a breather so Mike was fresher coming back in on the offensive end."

Thunder small forward Kevin Durant, the NBA's scoring champion for the second consecutive season, had 22 points but made only 10 of 24 shots. Grizzlies guard Tony Allen challenged almost every shot, particularly in the second half, when Durant shot just 5-for-15.

"They dictated our offense and we were doing a very good job for three quarters of really forcing what we do onto them — and we stopped doing it," Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said.

"We gave into their play. I give them credit, they really stepped up and got into us and made us take tough shots."

Hollins made other adjustments, such as going with little-used 7-2 center Hamed Haddadi as his first post player off the bench instead of Darrell Arthur.

Haddadi didn't convert any field goals, but he got to the free throw line for five points and had a key block as the Grizzlies overcame a slow start to take a four-point lead in the second quarter. The reserves scored 20 of the 43 first-half points.

"We had that in our pocket all along. I left like they were hurting us on the boards. They hurt us on offensive rebounds and they were driving to the basket," Hollins said. "I kept saying that I needed to have a bigger guy on the court.

"I've been thinking about it. … I actually had Marc (Gasol) and Haddadi in the game first, then I came back and had Haddadi in with Zach. He can guard the basket, he can rebound and he got some free throws, as well. We needed that at that point because they were really hurting us on the glass."

The Grizzlies also began jumping on top of the pick-and-roll plays, daring the Thunder to make the extra pass and contesting even long jump shots by Durant, Westbrook and James Harden. They also rotated well to minimize inside scoring by Oklahoma City. The Grizzlies had a 50-38 edge there.

"They did a great job of closing the paint and I never did see the lane," Durant said. "I just have to adjust."

Young only played 16 minutes and scored four points, but it was his thunderous, one-handed dunk at 9:21 of the fourth quarter that permantely shifted the offensive momentum to Memphis. That bucket cut the deficit to 76-69, and the Grizzlies couldn't be stopped when they went back to their bread and butter.

Randolph and Gasol, who combine for the most points in the paint in the NBA this season, heated up as they started playing inside-out again. Gasol finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.

The Grizzlies got to the free throw line 44 times while the Thunder, who settled for too many jump shots, took 23.

Randolph had eight offensive rebounds.

"That's your go-to guy. That's your anchor," Hollins said. "As the game wore on and we started spreading the court, and doing some stuff, he started getting some things at the basket better.

"I said if we're going to walk the ball up court and throw it in the post, we're going to get beat. We picked the pace up and we changed out strategy a little bit."

If Memphis hopes to win the second playoff series in franchise history, Hollins expects to have games like these.

"You always have to be in games where you got to do something miraculous to win the game," he said. "I think this was miraculous."

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