Geoff Calkins: Grizzlies need all the help they can muster to defeat Thunder on the road

A night of giddy anticipation turned into a night of surly disappointment. An opportunity to close out the Thunder for the second year in a row was dithered
May 3, 2014
Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen (9) goes to the basket while defended by Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0), Thunder guard Reggie Jackson (15), and Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) during Game 6 of an NBA Western Conference quarterfinal at FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn., Thursday, May 1, 2014. (Nikki Boertman/The CommercialAppeal

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — So, um, Courtney Lee is unreliable. As is Marc Gasol, for that matter. Zach Randolph and Tony Allen are also unreliable. The Grizzlies’ free throw shooting may be the least reliable thing on earth.

Oh, and don’t get me started on Ed Davis. He’s incredibly unreliable. The only thing reliable about Beno Udrih is his happy tweets.

There.

That should get everyone ticked off for Saturday. Don’t say I never did anything to help.

Right now, the Grizzlies are going to need all the help anyone can offer, as they head back to Oklahoma City after getting pummeled by the Thunder in Game 6, 104-84.

A night of giddy anticipation turned into a night of surly disappointment. An opportunity to close out the Thunder for the second year in a row was dithered away.

Oh, and Mike Conley limped off the court in the second half with a strained hamstring and may not be able to play effectively in Game 7.

Conley’s hamstring is incredibly unreliable.

(That should fix it right up.)

And so this weirdest of series adds another level of weirdness, a game that will forever be remembered for the unintentionally incendiary work of an Oklahoma copy editor.

The copy editor had to slap a headline on a column about the Thunder’s struggling superstar, Kevin Durant, Wednesday night. He went with “Mr. Unreliable.”

Of all the possible dumb things to call Durant, that may have been the dumbest. Within hours, the sports editor at the paper had apologized for the headline, calling it “overstated and unduly harsh.”

But by then, the entire universe was stirred up, including Durant’s brother (who tweeted about it), and Durant’s mother (who tweeted about it), and Russell Westbrook (who called it “BS”) and, yes, unquestionably, Durant himself.

Durant wouldn’t admit this, of course, because who wants to admit they are human enough to react to such stuff?

“I’m not going to give ‘em credit for nothing,” said Durant, after the game was over, which is totally understandable.

But you saw the way Durant came out in this one, didn’t you? You saw him put up 10 points faster than you can say “Why in the world isn’t Tony Allen in there?”

“He was very dialed in tonight,” said Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger. “Durant went first, he ate first tonight.”

As for the Grizzlies, they really didn’t eat much at all.

Indeed, that was the disappointing part of the evening. The Grizzlies simply didn’t show up. Memphis fans can blame an anonymous copy editor or some one-sided officiating or whatever else they like, but the way the Grizzlies played Thursday, they got what they deserved.

“We didn’t play with enough force, desperation or urgency,” said Joeger.

Said Tony Allen, more simply: “It was kind of embarrassing.”

With a chance to clinch the series, the Grizzlies were out-rebounded 47-36. With a chance to finish off the Thunder, the Grizzlies had 11 shots blocked while blocking just one of their own.

The three starters not named Gasol or Randolph shot a combined 4 of 18 from the field. At halftime, the Thunder were shooting better from the field (56.1 percent) than the Grizzlies were shooting from the line (53.8).

And while Joerger said he didn’t think the game was decided by X’s and O’s, it was hard to miss the fact that the coach who made a change to his starting lineup was abundantly rewarded for the switch.

Meanwhile, Joerger let Allen sit on the bench for nearly 10 minutes, as Durant (who finished with 36) lit up Tayshaun Prince.

So, no, it was not a happy Grizzlies locker room after the game. Conley said his hamstring was “much worse” than the last time he injured it.

Conley also said he “planned on playing” Saturday, because at this point, is there any choice?

After six games, it will come to a seventh. After what seems like three months of must-win games, the Grizzlies have a least one more to play.

“We shot ourselves in the foot and now we have to go into a hostile environment,” said Allen. “We pretty much have to show our heart again.”

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