The top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder need to win Wednesday's Game 5 at Chesapeake Energy Arena against the Memphis Grizzlies or their season is over.
"Two things I've always known about our team is that it's never easy and that we never quit," OKC coach Scott Brooks said on Tuesday. "I expect that same effort that we've had all four games to be the same tomorrow night. We did a lot of good things last night. We just didn't finish the game. Every game has come down to the last two or three minutes. Hopefully we can do a better job of closing out the game."
The Thunder made it to the NBA Finals last season before losing to the Miami Heat. They earned the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs, but lost All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook in Game 2 of their first-round series against the Houston Rockets.
OKC and Memphis battled in Game 4 with no team having larger than a five-point lead in the fourth quarter. Kevin Durant tied the game with a finger roll with less than seven seconds on the clock.
The game went to overtime and that's when the Grizzlies dominated. They took the extra session by a 9-3 margin to claim a 103-97 victory.
The win provided some sense of revenge for Memphis, which fell down 17 points on Monday. Two years ago, armed with a 2-1 series lead, the Grizzlies blew an 18-point lead in Game 4 and fell to the Thunder.
"We were able to overcome a lot," Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins said. "We just kept battling through and got a win."
Now, the Grizzlies are in position to make the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.
"We are a team that plays hard and doesn't quit," said Hollins. "We're not the most-talented team in the playoffs. We try to do whatever we can to get a win."
Mike Conley scored a team-high 24 points while Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol chipped in 23 apiece to go with 12 and 11 rebounds, respectively, for Memphis. Conley and Gasol, the Defensive Player of the Year, both made the All- Defensive Second Team on Monday.
Durant led the Thunder with 27 points, but went 0-for-5 from the field in overtime. He had seven boards and seven assists. Kevin Martin added 17 off the bench, followed by a double-double from Serge Ibaka, who had 17 points and 14 rebounds.
Reggie Jackson and Nick Collison both cracked the 10-point mark as well.
The Thunder are down, but have two possible home games left. Not that they are looking that far in advance, but OKC is far from out of it, at least in its mind.
"We're going to keep fighting," Brooks said. "We're going to keep competing. All we're worried about is winning one game. It's a great place to play. The energy in our crowd hopefully can get us over that hump. We know that all we're focused on is if we win one game."
Memphis won Game 2 in Oklahoma City and captured one regular-season meeting there as well.
If OKC wins on Wednesday, Game 6 is slated for Friday in Memphis.