I wasn’t sad after Game 4. Frustrated, sure, but not sad. Despite the gut-punch of losing a 3-1 lead, and 96% win probability for the series, I felt like the Grizzlies had a damn good chance of taking the Thunder down in Game 5, and forcing the Thunder into an elimination Game 6 at the Grindhouse. Sure enough, they pulled it off, but man, the journey there was rough. With my family asleep, I tried to remain as calm as possible, but I let out a thunderous, Calculon-esque “NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” when Westbrook picked Conley, and tied it on the breakaway dunk. And that was just after the Grizzlies gave up their third four-point play of the series (they’re 3-0 when that happens). Quite simply, this was the craziest game in what was already the craziest series.
Now, we go back to Memphis, and while the Grizzlies are in good position, I would be a bit careful about starting any celebrations. Remember, home court hasn’t mattered a whole lot in this series, as Home Teams are 2-3 going into Game 6. Still, the Thunder are undoubtedly on the ropes, and it remains to be seen whether Durant company can come through when the Gridnhouse going insane for 48 minutes.
The big question is whether or not KD has anything extra in the tank. He’s still scoring a ton of points, with Game 4 as the exception, but hes been inefficient all series long. Durant is the scariest offensive player in the league, but the Grizzlies have made him look mortal for five games, and while the raw numbers are solid, he still hasn’t exploded for a truly spectacular game. With his team on the rope, and Westbrook’s efforts having mixed results, we’re going to see if Durant can come up with the 50-point dagger we’ve been dreading all series long.
Of course, even if he does, there’s still the question of what the supporting cast can do. After Reggie Jackson’s brilliant performance in Game 4, he was less noticeable tonight, and Caron Butler was the only one outside of Durant/Westbrook to really come through for the Thunder. This team seems shallow, and is depending on two superstars to carry them. Ironically, their only win Games 2-5 came when a bench player outshone both of them.
As for the Grizzlies, Mike Miller came through big time last night. It’s funny, when he was signed, it was hard to know Miller was really going to effect things in the playoffs, or if the Grizzlies biggest flaw (three-point shooting) would really be fixed by adding a dude in his 14th-season who was coming off the three least productive seasons of his career. But Miller has been a huge pickup, especially after the loss of Quincy Pondexter. When Miller came through in OT, it surprised no one and reminded us what a great acquisition he was for the team.
The Grizzlies are capable of doing this tonight, but it’s going to be an all-out war, which I think we’re all used to at this point. A fifth straight OT would surprise no one, and should almost be considered likely at this point. Kevin Durant is due to explode for a huge game, and the Grizzlies defense is going to have put up a herculean effort in order to contain him the way they have so far. But if they pull it off, this could be the night they take down the Thunder for the second straight year, and take the presumptive MVP down in the first round.