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SPORTS: Oklahoma City Thunder

Overtime And Time Again: Thunder Falls Again In OT, Trails Series 3-2

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

The Thunder and Grizzlies made NBA playoff history on Tuesday at Chesapeake Arena.

No playoff series has ever seen four straight contests go to overtime. But for the third time in four tries, Oklahoma City was on the wrong end.

Serge Ibaka's tip shot came just tenths of seconds late and the Thunder fell in overtime yet again, 100-99, sending OKC into a 3-2 hole. 

Memphis got off to a hot start behind a new-look Zach Randolph. Randolph, who shot just 36 percent in the series' first four games, hit his first three shots to propel the Grizzlies to a 10-2 lead.

The Thunder got going behind its superstar, Kevin Durant. Like Randolph, Durant struggled to find the range in the previous four games, but broke out early on Tuesday. KD buried two step back jumpers over Tayshaun Prince, followed by a 3-ball to bring OKC within 13-12.

Russell Westbrook came out on fire, scoring 14 points in the first after scoring just 15 points total in Game 4.

Memphis led 30-25 after the first but there was a feeling that Oklahoma City was about to make a move.

That feeling fell apart quickly.

Instead, Memphis locked down on defense and extended its lead to 14 late in the second. Durant went cold, the Thunder defense fell apart, and the home crowd grew a little hostile.

Memphis took a 55-43 lead into halftime, and was 24 minutes away from taking a 3-2 series lead.

Durant finished the half with the same seven points on 3-10 shooting. After hitting four of their first six shots of the second period, OKC closed the second by missing on 17 of their final 19 shots.

The Grizzlies jumped out to an 8-4 start and extended their lead to 63-47 with 9:26 to play in the third. Memphis extended that lead all the way to 20 at 72-52 with 4:24 to play in the period, forcing OKC into another timeout.

The team was sleepy. The crowd was booing. All hope appeared lost.

But out of the timeout emerged a new team. Caron Butler buried a 3. Then Durant hit one of his own. Then Ibaka got the much smaller Beno Udrih in the paint and finished an and-1.

Memphis called a timeout; the bleeding didn't stop.

Butler nailed another 3, followed by a Durant free throw, and with a minute to play in the third, the deficit was down to seven.

The 13-0 run ended on a pair of Courtney Lee free throws with 42 seconds remaining, but Oklahoma City was officially back in it.

The Grizzlies held a 76-70 lead heading into the fourth.

Durant opened the game's final stanza by nailing a 16-foot jumper to pull the Thunder within four. A few minutes later, down just two, Oklahoma City finally broke through.

Durant pulled up a drained a 3-pointer from the left wing that put OKC up 79-78 and sent Chesapeake Arena into a frenzy.

The game was a back-and-forth slugfest from that point out. Brooks elected to use a small lineup, running Ibaka at the 5 and Durant and Butler at the 3 and 4 spots. Memphis countered with a bigger unit that included both Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.

Trailing 87-82 with less than three minutes to play, Oklahoma City went back to the tried-and-true: the 4-point play.

Butler nailed one from downtown and the ensuing free throw to bring the Thunder back within one.

That's where the lead stayed until Tony Allen hit one of two free throws with 30 seconds to play. Memphis had the ball with a six-second differential between the shot and game clock, and OKC elected not to foul.

A wise choice.

As Mike Conley attempted to cross Westbrook over, Westbrook poked the ball loose and streaked down for the game-tying layup.

Overtime. Again.

Let's skip to the end. With 27 seconds to play, the Thunder trailed by two and had Durant on the line. KD hit the first, but missed the second after referee Joey Crawford delayed the shot by nearly a minute while arguing with the scorers table.

Scott Brooks wasn't very talkative about the issue postgame, but did admit that Crawford's antics weren't the norm.

"It was an awkward situation, I'll say that."

Conley agreed.

"I looked at KD and we were just like 'what is Joey doing?' Hey, I guess it worked," Conley said. "But we were both kinda confused as to what was going on."

Durant missed the second, and that was the difference.

Durant finished with 26 points and eight rebounds, while Westbrook added a triple double with 30 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds.  However, the two stars shot just 20-55.  

"He's a great shooter," Brooks said of Durant. "I believe in all the work he puts in, I believe that he's gonna come back next game and give us another great effort and I believe that the shots will fall."

Butler was the star of the Thunder's second unit, scoring 15 points on 5-10 shooting.  Reggie Jackson, who led OKC with 32 points in a heroic Game-4 performance, scored just six.  

Randolph's 20 points and 10 boards led the Grizzlies, but it was Thunder-killer Mike Miller's 21 points of the Memphis bench that made the biggest difference.  Miller shot 6-11 from the floor and 5-8 from downtown.

Derek Fisher scored five points off the Thunder bench. It was a milestone night for Fisher, who played in his 245th playoff game, breaking Robert Horry's NBA record.

Game 6 is set for Thursday night in Memphis.

"We've got to turn this page as quick as we can and put all of our attention and energy and focus into the next game," Brooks said.  "We won the last game we played there so we know we can win on their court."

Tip time is 7 p.m. CT.

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