MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Nobody is working harder, or longer, than the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies right now.
These small-market teams have gone blue collar with three consecutive overtime games in their first-round Western Conference series. The rest of the NBA? Well, there were three games combined in the other series that have gone past regulation through Saturday.
“Three overtimes in a row,” Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said early Sunday morning. “I don’t know when the last time that happened. To come out with the victory is a relief, and it’s a great feeling.”
This is only the second NBA series since the 1952 postseason to feature three consecutive overtime games, and the first since Boston and Chicago in 2009, according to STATS LLC.
The Thunder finally got their first win Saturday night 92-89 in Game 4 thanks to Reggie Jackson’s personal playoff-best performance, and now this is a best-of-three series that looks to go the limit. Game 5 is Tuesday night.
Oklahoma City won the first game in a blowout, ending Memphis’ five-game winning streak at the end of the season to grab the No. 7 seed. Since then, these teams have needed five extra minutes to decide a winner, with the last two games won by three points.
Chalk it up to just how well these teams know each other. Nobody has played each other as much since the start of the 2010-11 season. Including the playoffs, Memphis and Oklahoma City have played 31 games, with eight going to overtime for a total of 7,478 minutes. The Grizzlies having a 16-15 edge. (backslash)
Miami and Boston are second with 6,605 total minutes against each other.
“We knew going into this series it was going to be a very difficult series,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “Now it’s tied up at 2-2, and that means we have to play with the same type of intensity on both ends of the floor in front of our home crowd, which are the best fans in the league.”
Both teams got to rest Sunday thanks to the two-day break before Game 5 in Oklahoma City.
The Grizzlies have reason to remain confident despite blowing a five-point lead in the final minute with the opportunity for a 3-1 lead.
“It’s just all about executing down the stretch,” Grizzlies guard Tony Allen said. “We hold our hats on the defensive end and giving up all those offensive rebounds hurt us a little bit. We will look at film. We will learn from this. We are not down, we are still confident, and we definitely want to keep grinding.”
The Grizzlies had the lead in the final minute but couldn’t shut down Jackson, who had two more points than Kevin Durant and Westbrook combined. Durant and Westbrook had their worst shooting game this series, combining to go 11 of 45 from the floor.
Durant also came into Saturday night averaging 46 minutes a game in this series, and he topped 49 minutes in Game 4, making up for his cold shooting by grabbing 13 rebounds to go with his 15 points.
“I’ll just get back to the drawing board, trust my work on my shot,” the NBA scoring champ said. “I know Russell’s going to do the same thing. He works extremely hard. Just keep trusting in the process. It’s all about the W. It’s all about Oklahoma City vs. the Memphis Grizzlies and who has the most points at the end. We found a way to win, and some nights it’s not going to go our way, but we just have to figure it out.”
When the Thunder won Game 4 against Memphis in 2011, they needed triple overtime in a semifinal that went a full seven games, with Oklahoma City winning on its own floor. The Grizzlies are ready to push to the limit again.
“They are fighting,” Memphis guard Mike Conley said. “We have to do the same going back to Oklahoma City.”
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker
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