Say whew! Breathe! Don't forget to exhale!
That could be part of the instruction manual for being a Memphis Grizzlies fan, especially after Thursday night's emotion-stretching victory over Oklahoma City at the FedExForum.
In Game 3 of the first-round playoff series, the Grizzlies escaped with a 98-95 win over super-All Star Kevin Durant and now have a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"We have been in it before," Durant said of being down and going into Game 4.
"We know how to handle it. We have been down 0-2 before. We have been down 2-1 against this teamWe have been in that position before. I think that the experience is going to help us out. We just have to get better next game."
Grizz fans no doubt will pack the house and do everything they can to make sure Memphis has the energy needed to match the concerted effort of the Durant-led Thunder
Thunder, lightening and heavy storms hovering over Memphis did not deter a sold-out crowd from filing into FedExForum on Thursday evening (April 24). More than 18,000 were in attendance with gold growl towels in hand. After watching their home team split two road games, they were front and center to cheer their favorites to victory.
When it comes to the Grizzlies and the Thunder, there is always a familiarity in playoff basketball. Both teams have good post play. Both teams are made for playoff basketball. And both teams want to win. But only one team can and will move on.
The win marked Memphis' 15th-consecutive home victory since Feb. 5th and the fourth consecutive time they have beat the Thunder at home during the playoffs.
The Grizzlies finished the first quarter on top (24-18), with Zach Randolph leading the way, but he was held to zero after eight minutes of play in the second quarter. The Grizzlies were up by halftime 44-36 and led most of the way until the Thunder fought back. Down by 10 at the start of the fourth quarter, Oklahoma City started to climb until they tied the game (81-81) with a shot from Russell Westbrook with 57 seconds left.
"We got a little slow, we got a little tentative with the lead," said Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger. "
After two huge back-to-back plays by Grizz guard Tony Allen to put the Grizzlies up 85-81 in the final regular frame, he fouled Westbrook behind the arc. With the game tied 85-85, a missed Kevin Durant three-point attempt sent the game into overtime.
"People are going to see the highlight of Russell Westbrook hitting a three and getting fouled," Joerger said of the play. "The guy (Tony Allen) did 99 percent of everything on the floor and was spectacular. That's the guy we all love with his passion, how hard he plays and his IQ is off the charts. It's a nice thing to have defensively and offensively."
Allen finished with 16 points and nine rebounds off the bench.
"I'm just a basketball player and I try to make basketball plays," Allen said. "I try to make the right ones, but some plays are better than others. For the most part, I know my role coming in, trying to get a group win. I just take advantage of any offensive opportunity.
"For the most part, I try to be the best defender in the world. I hold my hat on that and take pride in that, and that's all I focus on. If the offense calls on me, you can believe I'll take advantage of it."
Memphis' bench came up big outscoring the Thunder bench by 24 (34-9). The Grizzlies forced Oklahoma City to 16 turnovers, earning 22 points from that error. Memphis won the battle in the paint, outscoring the Thunder 62-48 despite being slightly outrebounded (48-47).
Mike Conley led the Grizzlies with 10 points. With Randolph being a huge focal point inside, he still posted his second double-double of the series with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Marc Gasol pitched in 14 points.
Beno Udrih, who has stepped up to the back-up point guard position in the absence of Nick Calathes (suspension for violation of NBA drug policy), was also a huge spark off the bench with 12 points.
Westbrook and Durant both scored a game-high 30 points.
"They play well at home," Westbrook said. "The crowd is always into the game. We have to stick together as a team as a unit and come back and win Game 4."
The Grizzlies will fight for a Game 4 win in FedExForum on Saturday with tipoff at 8:30 p.m.