The Memphis Grizzlies will head home with a 3-2 series lead after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-99 in overtime, a record fourth straight playoff game decided by an overtime period.
The Grizzlies had held a 20-point advantage in the second half as the Thunder offense floundered under the Grizzlies trademark physical defense.
They eventually clicked into gear, a Caron Butler four-point play igniting a 27-6 run that let Oklahoma City take a 79-78 lead.
The Grizzlies would scrap and claw the rest of the way, holding as much as a four-point cushion in the final minutes as the teams traded turnovers and bad misses.
Mike Conley brought the ball across halfcourt with 20 seconds to play in regulation and his Grizzlies up 90-88. Russell Westbrook then timed his lunge perfectly to pick the ball clean out of Conley’s hand and streak clear for an uncontested dunk with four seconds to play.
Westbrook recorded a rare playoff triple-double with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists but needed 31 shots to get there.
Zach Randolph would score on the last possession but his tip in came well after the buzzer had sounded, making this the fourth straight game in this series to need an overtime period.
Memphis quickly asserted itself again in overtime, Mike Miller connecting on a pair threes as he had five threes as part of his 21 points.
Zach Randolph led the Grizzlies with 20 points and 10 rebounds while his running mate Marc Gasol added 11 points to go with his 15 boards.
The teams exchanged shots until Kevin Durant was fouled on a loose ball with 27.9 seconds to play and the Thunder down by a pair.
He calmly knocked down the first but as he was settling into his routine for the second, lead referee Joey Crawford raced towards him and took the ball, choosing to bizarrely berate the clock operator about an unknown issue.
The stoppage may have had the unintentional effect of icing Durant, who clanked the second free-throw.
The Thunder forced another chance to win the game, regaining possession with 2.9 seconds to play.
Down one, conventional wisdom would suggest trying to take a two. Instead, Durant tried a catch-and-shoot three off the inbounds pass, his shot caroming off into the hands of Serge Ibaka, who’s tip-in came at most one tenth of a second too late. Officials had to review the play to determine whether he got the shot off in time.
The use of Durant in the fourth quarter and overtime will be the subject of much debate before the Thunder’s decisive Game 6 on Thursday night. Durant was used as a floor-spacer in crunch time, a strange choice considering he is one of the greatest shooters the sport has ever seen.
He finished with 26 points on 10-24 from the field.
Zach Randolph: 20 points, 8-15 FGS, 10 rebounds
Marc Gasol: 11 points, 4-14 FGS, 15 rebounds
Mike Miller: 21 points, 6-11 FGS, 5-8 3 FGS
Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook: 30 points, 10-31 FGS, 10 rebounds, 13 assists
Kevin Durant: 26 points, 10-24 FGS, 8 rebounds
Serge Ibaka: 16 points, 6-10 FGS, 12 rebounds
Game 6 @ MEM: Thursday May 1st, Tip: 8pm ET