The Memphis Grizzlies seek a commanding series lead against the reigning Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder when the two sides meet in Memphis for Game 4 Monday night.
The Grizz and Thunder battled in another defensive-minded affair Saturday in Memphis. The game was knotted at 81-81 with slightly less than two minutes to go and it came down to free-throw shooting.
Kevin Durant, who finished second to Miami's LeBron James in MVP voting, was a 90.5 percent foul shooter during the regular season. He missed a pair with 39.3 seconds remaining.
Memphis, which shot 66 percent from the free-throw line during the first two games of this series, made all six of its attempts to ice the game and win, 87-81.
"It's not always pretty. Tonight wasn't pretty, but it was pretty for us because we got the win," Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins said.
The Grizzlies only shot 40.5 percent from the field on Saturday, but it was enough. They were led by the Defensive Player of the Year, although it was mostly on the offensive side.
Marc Gasol scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half. He also pulled down nine rebounds, handed out four assists and blocked two shots.
Tony Allen and Mike Conley netted 14 points apiece. Jerryd Bayless added 11 off the bench.
It was an uncharacteristically bad night for the veteran starting forwards for the Grizzlies. All-Star Zach Randolph only managed eight points, but had 10 rebounds, and Tayshaun Prince shot 1-for-5 for two points.
But Prince did an admirable job in defending Durant. The NBA's second-leading scorer in the regular season netted 25 points in Game 3, but shot 9-for-19.
And now, the Thunder face a serious disadvantage. They are down in this series and without one of their best weapons, multiple-time All-Star Russell Westbrook, who injured his knee and will miss the postseason.
"We've got to stick with it. We can't get down on ourselves," Durant said. "We can't feel sorry for ourselves and nobody is. We've got to stick with it and keep fighting. We've played hard basketball for three games, tough basketball, defensive basketball, but some things didn't go right for us in these last two games. We'll see what happens in the next game."
No one has really stepped up in Westbrook's absence for the Thunder, not in Game 3 anyway. Reggie Jackson, who starts in place of Westbrook, had 16 points and Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin chipped in 13 points each.
OKC believes it could be something as simple as making shots it has always made. The Thunder shot 36.4 percent in Game 3.
"This is a broken record, but I know we can hit shots," said Thunder head coach Scott Brooks. "I've seen the ball go in the basket many, many times with our team and I have confidence that that will happen and hopefully soon."
Game 5 will be back in Oklahoma City on Wednesday.