Right Field

Memphis? Oklahoma City? Where’d These Guys Come From?

Holy cow: buzzer beaters, foul-outs, near-misses, defensive intensity, solid refereeing . . . last night had everything you want from a night of playoff basketball.

If you had told any NBA observer that the most exciting second-round NBA playoff series would be between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Memphis Grizzlies, they’d have laughed you out of the room. But the show these two young teams are putting on has been stunning. Their triple-overtime marathon last night was just the latest thriller.

The Thunder took this one, but not without a fight. And they were fortunate that O. J. Mayo and Mike Conley fouled out of the game. Russell Westbrook (inefficiently) scored 40 points and seemed to be the only player who could still muster up full-speed effort at the end, when he was being defended by Memphis backup Greivis Vasquez. As Arturo Galletti pointed out, “in the end, he [Westbrook] had more legs than anybody else.”

The story of the Memphis playoff run has been the maturation and leadership of Zach Randolph. Cast as a headcase in Portland and cast off by the league’s two most dysfunctional franchises (New York and the L.A. Clippers), Randolph has found his groove as a veteran post threat and de facto heart and soul of this young team. Randolph always has had the ability to be a dominant inside force, but he’s blossomed now. Maybe it’s the barbecue.

The Memphis-Oklahoma City series has had something for all lovers of basketball. It’ll be a shame when it has to end.

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