Kevin Durant walked down the court at the FedExForum with both hands covering his face. He sensed that the one thing he and the rest of his Oklahoma City Thunder teammates set out to do in Memphis was about to become an unfulfilled goal.
They'd set out to retrieve at least one win in Memphis. That didn't happen.
In an overtime win on Monday, the Grizzlies defeated the Thunder 103-97, taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.
The win wasn't glamorous. The Thunder came out gunning. The OKC coaching staff figured that if "Mike Conley plays well, the team plays well." So part of the strategy was to cover Conley with heavy defense and to play fast and hard not allowing Memphis to set the pace of the game.
In the first half, the strategy was a success, hitting the Grizz like a heavyweight's punch. And it didn't help a bit that Memphis had big-time trouble getting shots to fall. The Thunder led by as many as 17 points before the Grizzlies clawed to within eight (56-48) by halftime.
After the break, the Grizzlies got back to the hard-nosed defense that now is recognized throughout the league. More evidence of that came Monday with Tony Allen named to the 2012-13 NBA All Defensive First Team and Mike Conley and Marc Gasol earning spots on the NBA All-Defensive Second Team.
The Grizz outscored the Thunder 28-10 in the third quarter, hitting 10 of 21 shoots while holding OKC to 37.6 percent shooting from the floor. They outscored the Thunder 44-30 in the paint.
"Our mindset was just get it to 10," Allen said of the Grizz first-half comeback. He pitched in 10 points, six rebounds, three steals and two assists.
"We were fortunate enough to get it to eight (by the half). Coach (Lionel Hollins) came in the locker room, and he's good with those speeches. We came out in the third quarter and just wanted to respond. We were able to get the lead and our guys were our guys. Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley – they were our guys. They were our heroes tonight."
Neck and neck down the stretch, the game spilled into overtime when OKC's Kendrick Perkins blocked a Randolph jumper as the clock wound down on regulation.
Tied at 94 going into OT, the Thunder could manage only three points the rest of way, with the Grizz grinding out nine.
Conley led the Grizzlies with 24 points and their two big men combined for 46 points and 23 rebounds. Gasol recorded 23 points and 11 rebounds, with Randolph adding 23 points and 12 rebounds.
Durant led all scorers with 27 points (seven rebounds), followed by Kevin Martin, who pitched in 18 points.
"It was a hard fought playoff game," Martin said. "They attacked us inside and were just getting to the rim. We held them off for a while. We just have to close the game sometimes. I think we did execute what we wanted to do. We will take a look at the film tomorrow and see what we need to do to prepare for Game 5."
Game 5 will be in Oklahoma City on Wednesday.