Thursday, May 12, 2011
Thunder roll to 3-2 series lead
By ESPN Stats & Info
After taking three overtimes to decide Game 4, Wednesday’s Game 5 between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies was pretty much over after three quarters. The Thunder entered the fourth quarter with a 19-point lead and ended up taking a 3-2 series lead with a decisive 27-point victory. It's the largest margin of victory for either team this postseason.
The Thunder became the first team in four tries since 1993 to win their next playoff game after winning a triple OT postseason contest. Another victory would make Oklahoma City the first team since the 1976 Boston Celtics to win a series after winning a triple-overtime playoff game.
The Thunder held Memphis to 20-or-fewer points in every quarter. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that was the first time in eight years that the Oklahoma City franchise did not permit more than 20 points in any quarter of a regular-season or playoff game. That had last happened on March 24, 2003, when the Sonics beat the Phoenix Suns, 82-73.
Two keys to the Thunder’s victory were transition points and bench production.
The Thunder entered Game 5 having outscored the Grizzlies 70-44 in transition during the first four games of the series, including 40-16 in games 2 and 4 (both Thunder wins), and it was more of the same for Oklahoma City on Wednesday. The Thunder shot 78.6 percent and didn’t turn the ball over once in transition.
The Thunder bench outscored the Grizzlies bench, 53-27.
A huge part of that production was James Harden. After posting a combined plus-minus of -8 in games 1-4 of the series, Harden had a game-high plus-minus of +29 in Game 5. Harden provided a notable boost off the bench as the Thunder shot 51.9 percent (27-52) from the field while Harden was on the floor, compared to just 38.4 percent (10-26) when he was not. Harden may be in line to receive more minutes in Game 6 as the man he replaced in the lineup, Thabo Sefolosha, had a team-low plus/minus of -2 in Game 5, the only member of the Thunder to net a plus/minus under zero.
The Thunder move to within a win of their first Conference Finals trip since 1996, when they were the SuperSonics and they reached the NBA Finals, losing to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
What are their chances? In NBA playoff history, when teams are tied 2-2 in a best-of-seven series, the Game 5 winner goes on to win the series 83 percent of the time.