The Thunder defeated the Grizzlies 92-89 in overtime to take Game 4 at the Fed Ex Forum on Saturday. The first-round series between the two teams is now even at two games apiece. Game 5 is set for Tuesday in Oklahoma City.
• Reggie Jackson resurrected. The Thunder wore wide smiles of relief after escaping with a victory in another slug fest with the Grizzlies, knowing that a career night from a struggling role player had likely just saved their season. Reserve point guard Reggie Jackson is no bum, not by a long shot, but he had been as invisible as a player can be during the first three games of the series. On paper, Jackson should have been handily winning his matchup, and yet it was Grizzlies reserve Beno Udrih who had been piling up the points and headlines as Memphis took a 2-1 series lead.
Jackson didn't fix Oklahoma City's offensive issues -- there was still plenty of stagnation, plenty of long and contested jumpers, and not nearly enough interplay -- but he did provide an attack-minded element that has waned recently from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The third-year guard scored 12 points in the basket area and he scored eight more from the foul line, taking full advantage of one-on-one opportunities against Memphis's less-imposing defenders in mismatches created by Oklahoma City's two-point guard lineup. His timing was excellent, too: Jackson singlehandedly outscored the Grizzlies 13-9 in the final minute of regulation and overtime, erasing a five-point deficit to force the extra period, where he put the game on ice. He finished with a game-high 32 points (on 11-for-16 shooting), nine rebounds and one assist.
Game 4 was quite the reversal from Game 3, which saw Durant and Westbrook attempt all of Oklahoma City's shots during an 11-minute late-game stretch. Here, it was Jackson looking off Durant to bury a crucial three in the game's final minute. Here, it was Jackson again looking off everyone to work off the dribble and tie the game with a short jumper. Supporting actors are crucial to any playoff series, but Jackson's takeover seemingly displaced his star teammates, rather than simply complementing their work. It was much-needed production: Durant suffered through one of the worst high-volume shooting nights of his life (5-for-21 overall for 15 points) and Westbrook (6-for-24 for 15 points) wasn't any better.
"He gave us the lift we needed as a sixth man," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
As if his well-timed, late-game play wasn't impressive enough, two other bits of context make Jackson's night seem that much more special. First: he entered Game 4 shooting just 3-for-19 (15.8 percent) in the first three games, and he hadn't topped 20 points in more than a month. Not only did he have a career night, he essentially went from 0-to-60 in one game. Second: his 32 points came against the Grizzlies, a slow-paced, elite defense that doesn't often concede such outbursts.
Here's a complete list of players who scored 32 points against the Grizzlies this season: Durant, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Goran Dragic, Chandler Parsons and Bradley Beal. That's four All-Stars, one near All-Star and two other starters. In other words, Jackson is the only player to come off the bench this season to score 32 points against Memphis.
But, wait, there's more: this Memphis core has been a factor in the playoffs every year since 2011, to varying degrees. The only players to score 32+ points against the grit-and-grind Grizzlies in the postseason: Durant, Westbrook, Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. That's five potential Hall of Famers and zero role players. To recap: Jackson's career night ventured into some intriguing uncharted territory.
• What to do with Zach Randolph? Memphis failed to score 20 points in each of the first three quarters. That fact served as a nice reminder that the Grizzlies aren't the only elite defense in this series; the Thunder ranked No. 5 in defensive efficiency this season and they have the bulk and length to hang with the Zach Randolph/Marc Gasol combination. Memphis enjoyed its best offensive sequences in the fourth quarter, when Randolph went to the bench in favor of a spread-oriented and small lineup that included Mike Conley, Beno Udrih, Tony Allen, Mike Miller and Marc Gasol. That group allowed Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger to match-up with the Thunder's two point guards and it also put some shooting on the floor (Udrih and Miller both hit threes in the period on what was a very cold shooting night for the Grizzlies overall).
The shooting struggles of Durant and Westbrook in this series have overshadowed similar struggles for Randolph, who is now averaging 18.3 points and 8.5 rebounds in the series while shooting just 36 percent. In Game 4, he finished with 11 points on 5-for-14 shooting, and he didn't score in the game's final 20 minutes.
Here's a look at the worst shooters so far during the postseason with a minimum of 15 attempts per game.
- D.J. Augustin, Bulls: 32.7 percent on 17.3 shots per game
- James Harden, Rockets: 32.9 percent on 27.3 shots per game
- Russell Westbrook, Thunder: 35.1 percent on 24.3 shots per game
- DeMar DeRozan, Raptors: 35.7 percent on 18.7 shots per game
- Zach Randolph: Grizzlies: 36 percent on 18.8 shots per game
Dirk Nowitzki and Durant aren't too far behind, but Randolph is currently the frontcourt player doing the least with the most during the postseason.
How Joerger manages Randolph's minutes going forward will be interesting. He did reinsert Randolph into the game in the closing minutes of regulation and he stuck with him through overtime with nothing to show for it. "You have to go with the guys who brought you to the dance," he explained afterwards.
• Podium Westbrook returns. A dejected Westbrook wore a plain white t-shirt following a tough Game 3 loss, and Oklahoma City media members and fans noted on Twitter that his lack of fashion adventure was a bad sign. Following Game 4, Westbrook was all smiles and back to his usual unorthodox self, wearing a strange green and blue quilted shirt and fli-up sunglasses. A win is a win for the Thunder at this point, even if Westbrook finished with more turnovers (7) than made shots (6) and connected on just 25 percent of his attempts.
Quilted shirt & statement shades...here's @russwest44 at the podium after Game 4 pic.twitter.com/RxIyCzJA4v
— NBA TV (@NBATV) April 27, 2014
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