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Heat, Grizzlies bring opponents to elimination brink in NBA playoffs

Monday night, Miami beat Chicago, and Memphis outlasted Oklahoma City to each go up 3-1 in their respective NBA Eastern and Western Conference semifinal playoff series.

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As demoralized as this Bulls team was in the game, it was curious, to say the least, that Miami coach Erik Spoelstra chose to leave James and Bosh in for nearly 80 combined minutes. One could reasonably conclude that the Heat are not taking any chances in their effort to finish this series in five games to reach the Eastern Conference finals again.

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Memphis Proves That to Prevail, You Must Go Inside

It’s been said many times that if you’re a team that fights hard inside, you will generally win, and if you’re a perimeter scoring team, you won’t. Memphis, up two games to one in their Western Conference semifinal playoff against Oklahoma City, confirmed this in textbook fashion as they defeated the Thunder, 103-97, in overtime to leave Oklahoma City teetering on the brink of elimination.

The fifteenth straight capacity crowd at Memphis’ FedEx Forum was treated to the paint power of the Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, who each scored 23 points and grabbed a combined 21 rebounds, to which Gasol added six blocked shots. Memphis's interior attack was supplemented very nicely by guard Mike Conley’s perimeter play, netting 24 points, including 4 of 10 from three-point land.

Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant led all scorers with 27 points. But when the game was on the line in overtime, he was as cold as ice, going 0-for-5 from the floor (the Thunder as a team was only 1-of-9 in shooting). Memphis also protected the ball better, turning the ball over only 7 times to Oklahoma City’s 15 (of which 4 each were committed by Durant and guard Reggie Jackson).

The Thunder had some great production off the bench by Nick Collison (10 points) and Kevin Martin (18 points). However, veteran 3 point specialist Derek Fisher was only 2-of-8 shooting (3 points), with only one three ball. Overall, the story here was scoring in the paint, where the Grizzlies banged their way to 44 points against only 30 for Oklahoma City. And even though the Thunder out-rebounded Memphis 44-41, the Grizzlies converted their offensive boards into 21 second-chance points to only 10 for Oklahoma City. And that was a major reason why Memphis is now up 3-1. 

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