By Dennis Berry
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies played what may be the best game of the 2011 NBA Playoffs to this point on Monday Night. Game four in the best of seven Western Conference semi finals series began on Monday night and finished early Tuesday morning in the Eastern Time zone.
Most people in the east had gone to bed Monday night, waking Tuesday morning seeing the highlights from Memphis.
This is not the first triple overtime game in the history of the NBA Playoffs; it has happened five times before. Here is a look at each of the triple overtime games to take place in the NBA Playoffs.
This was not only the first NBA playoff game to go into three overtimes, but the only one to go into four overtimes. It is still the playoff record for overtimes in a game.
Back in those days the series between Boston and Syracuse was a best of three games. The Celtics had won game one and looked to advance to the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics were led by Hall of Famer Bob Cousy. It was a name making game for Cousy, who scored 50 points, an NBA playoff record 30 points coming from the free throw line.
The win gave Boston its first NBA playoff series victory.
The next triple overtime game featured a familiar team, the Boston Celtics. This time though, it was on the biggest stage in the NBA: The Finals. Many called this the "Greatest Game Ever Played."
The Celtics jumped out to a 36-18 lead after the first quarter. The Suns chipped away and got the lead down to five going into the final quarter. The lead was still at five with a minute to go when the Suns, behind former Celtic Paul Westphal, were able to tie the game.
After the first overtime ended still tied, the second overtime ended in drama. John Havlicek gave Boston a one point lead, the lead was pushed to two points following a free throw after a technical foul. Then came the highlight you have seen on television before. With two seconds left, Phoenix inbounded the ball to Garfield Heard and he hit a game tying basket to extend the game to a third overtime.
Boston would win the game in the final overtime and win the NBA Championship in Game 6.
Once again the next playoff game to go into triple overtime featured another familiar team, the Phoenix Suns. This time the Suns came in with the best record in the NBA at 62-20 and the NBA MVP in Charles Barkley. The Bulls were the two time defending champions and had perhaps the greatest player ever, Michael Jordan.
This was a back and forth game the whole night. The game was tied after the first quarter and Phoenix held a one point lead at halftime. They kept that lead going into the fourth quarter, but could not win in regulation. The game was tied at 103 going into the first overtime. Both teams could not find their groove in the first overtime as a total of only eight points were scored. The second overtime was not any better, as each team only scored seven points.
In the final overtime Phoenix finally pulled away, outscoring Chicago 15-7 to win 129-121. Michael Jordan led all players in scoring with 44, but he shot 19-43 to get them. Barkley had 24 points and 19 rebounds for Phoenix, but Dan Majerle lead them with 28. Phoenix Kevin Johnson scored 25 and set and NBA Finals record, playing 62 minutes.
New Jersey was the two time defending Eastern Conference champions. Detroit was at the start of a successful six year run that included making the East Finals six straight years, two NBA Finals appearances, and one NBA title. Entering game five the series was tied 2-2. Detroit won the first two at home and New Jersey followed suit.
Detroit held a one point lead at halftime, but found themselves down three with only seconds to play. Detroit inbound the ball to Chauncey Billups who had no pressure dribbling the ball up to half court. After taking a step into the front court, Billups threw up a shot that banked in at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
The first two overtimes went back and forth with neither team being able to pull away. It wasn't until the third overtime that New Jersey was able to pull away for the win. The Nets had six players in double figures led by Richard Jefferson with 31. The Piston had seven players in double figures, led by Billups with 31.
This game set a NBA record with four players on each team fouling out.
The match up between the Bulls and Celtics may be the best ever for a first round series. The series went the full seven games and there were seven overtimes played in the series overall. Game one went to overtime. Game four went into double overtime. Game five went into overtime. Game six went into triple overtime.
Entering game six, Boston led the series 3-2 and could close out the series in Chicago. The Bulls built an 11 point lead after the first quarter, but Boston came back and was only down two points at halftime. The Bulls pushed the lead back out to seven to end the third quarter, but Boston was not done. The Celtics outscored the Bulls to tie the game and force the first overtime.
The first two quarters were even, the highlight being Ray Allen who forced the third overtime with a jumper from the corner to pull the Celtics within one. Then following two free throws from Chicago, Allen made a three with 7.6 to tie the game. The Bulls pulled away after Joakim Noah's steal and three point play. Boston's Rajon Rondo had a chance to win the game at the end, but was blocked by Chicago's Derrick Rose.
Allen led all scorers with 51 points and made nine three point shots. John Salmons scored 35 to pace Chicago.
The triple overtime game between the Thunder and the Grizzlies had everything you need. Home team jumps out to big lead. Check. The Grizzlies held a 38-16 lead after the opening quarter. Memphis held Oklahoma City to just six field goals in the first quarter. A comeback by the road team? Check. The Thunder outscored the Grizzlies 33-25 in the second quarter. They shot 40% from the field. Oklahoma City shot 5 more free throws and made one more three to help cut the lead at halftime. By the end of the third quarter, it was a one point game.
In the fourth quarter, the Thunder had taken control of the game. They were up 10 points with just over five minutes to play. Then the Grizzlies made their come back lead by Mike Conley. He scored 12 points in the fourth and it was his three pointer with three seconds left that tied the game.
The Thunder appeared to have the game in hand in the first overtime. They were up three with 16 seconds left. The Grizzles had the ball and Greivis Vasquez made a difficult three point shot with Russell Westbrook in his face to force double overtime. In the second overtime it was Westbrook's turn to hit the big shot. After a Marc Gasol tip in to put the Grizzlies up 119-117, Westbrook got the ball. He pulled up on the right side and nailed a jumper to tie the game. Each team had a chance to win it, but failed to convert and it was on to the third overtime.
In the final overtime, the NBA's leading scorer, Kevin Durant put the game away. He scored six of Oklahoma City's 14 points including a jumper with 19 seconds left to seal the game for the Thunder. Durant scored 35 points and Westbrook added 40 to lead Oklahoma City.
Memphis was led by Zach Randolp's 34 points and 16 rebounds, while Marc Gasol added 26 points and 21 rebounds. It was a shame that many viewers missed the end of the game. Tip off was scheduled for 9:30 pm in the east, but it was closer to 10 pm as coverage stayed with the Miami Heat-Boston Celtics game that also went into overtime. The Thunder-Grizzlies game did not end until almost 2 am in the east.
Dennis also wrote the All-time history of #8 seeds beating #1 seeds in NBA history.
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