Originally Published: May 13, 2013

1. Marc Gasol Seizes The Moment For Memphis

By Ramona Shelburne | ESPNLosAngeles.com

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- At first glance it looked as if Marc Gasol was hesitant. That he was looking elsewhere, or for someone else to take the biggest shot of the Memphis Grizzlies' season.

Those Gasol brothers like to pass first, after all. They're sidekicks, right? Great players who work best as unselfish betas for a championship team with a clear alphas.

Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty ImagesMarc Gasol and Zach Randolph had a big hand in the Game 4 win over the Thunder.

Oh wait, that's his brother Pau. Because Marc Gasol wasn't waiting for anyone else to take the shot that sealed the Grizzlies' 103-97 overtime win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night.

Marc Gasol was baiting Serge Ibaka. And then Marc Gasol was confidently stroking a 15-footer with 22 seconds remaining that gave Memphis a 3-1 series lead over the reigning, and now reeling, Western Conference champions.

"I looked down at Serge and he had his hand down," Gasol explained. "I put the ball over my head and took a little jab [step] and I knew the ball had to go up at that time.

"I'm lucky it went in."

Lucky, sure …

But Gasol didn't smile as he added that line. He can be sarcastic and funny, but he doesn't play for the laugh.

He just plays.


"Marc's from Memphis man," Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph said. "Marc's tough. Marc played [high school and AAU ball] with all the guys from the ghetto, from south Memphis to north Memphis. And now he's been around me."

Randolph laughed at that one. People don't know Marc the way he does. The way Memphis does.

He's one of them. A graduate of Lausanne High over in nearby Germantown. Although no one who knew him as the chubby, baby-faced teenager then would recognize the bruising center who just won the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year that he has become.

But that's part of his charm, too. He wasn't the lottery pick his brother was. He was the throw-in to the trade no one had ever heard of. He was the younger brother who got more of the baby fat and less of the skill.

If he was going to be anywhere as successful as his brother, a four-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion with the Lakers, Marc Gasol was going to have to work hard for it. Very, very hard.

But you know what? He did.

"We crack jokes sometimes about what he used to [look like] in high school," Randolph said. "But man, he's just been growing as a person and individually. The guy's great, man. He's constantly getting better. I'm proud of him."

Gasol has been a leader for this Grizzlies team for a while now. He speaks up in huddles and team meetings. He spoke for point guard Mike Conley a few times over the years when Conley wasn't as comfortable delivering a message to someone.

"I just try to win. I take ownership of the team. Everybody has to do the same thing," Gasol said, oh so directly. "You have to earn respect, show people what you're all about, and the team will follow you."

Yep, I told you he was direct.

Wednesday night he led in a different way, though. This team is still sorting out who takes the most meaningful shots at the end of games after the Rudy Gay trade. Most of the time it's Conley now, but not every time. Not in the way it's pretty much always going to be Kevin Durant for the Thunder or Kobe Bryant for the Lakers.

The Grizzlies just lean on Conley now. But if the opponent sends a trap at him, as the Thunder did at the end of the fourth quarter and overtime, Conley will pass out of it.

Gasol wasn't just ready for the ball, he wanted it. And when he stroked that 15-footer, it felt as though something meaningful had happened for these Grizzlies.

This was the game two years ago their upstart run started to unravel. The setup was eerily similar. Memphis held a 2-1 lead heading into a home game at the FedEx Forum. The Grizzlies took a 17-point lead in the first half, even.

But they weren't ready for success. Not yet. Durant and the Thunder were, and they seized an epic three-overtime victory.

This time it was the Thunder coughing up the big lead. Oklahoma City led by as many as 17 in the first half, but gave it all back in the third quarter and needed a finger roll from Durant with six seconds remaining to force overtime.

It was all Grizzlies in the overtime, though. Durant had nothing left after carrying the Thunder in the eight games they've played without Russell Westbrook. Durant made just two of his eight shots in the fourth quarter and none of the five he took in overtime.

"I'm giving everything I've got to my team," Durant said afterward. "I've been doing this since the playoffs started. I'm going to play for my team. I'll keep doing it however long I have to."

He made a joke about being tired because it was well past midnight by the time he came into the interview room with the late, 8:30 p.m. CT start.

The room offered a tepid laugh. But nothing's funny about what has happened to the Thunder since Westbrook's untimely injury. They're trying, Durant is trying, and they're making progress at times. Serge Ibaka rediscovered his midrange game with 17 points on 6-for-13 shooting. Kevin Martin delivered 18 points off the bench.

But they miss Westbrook. They aren't the same. And these Memphis Grizzlies aren't letting up anytime soon.

"We scratch and we claw," Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said. "They say 'grit and grind.' I don't know what the heck that means, but we go out and we just battle. We just compete."

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