Grizzlies, Heat take commanding leads in series

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Grizzlies, Heat take commanding leads in series

MEMPHIS, Tennessee - The Grizzlies pulled off a huge rally to move within a victory of the franchise’s first Western Conference final.

Tony Allen scored on a driving layup to open overtime and the Grizzlies held off the Oklahoma City Thunder, 103-97, Monday night to push the defending Western Conference champions to the edge of elimination.

The Grizzlies shook off a first half in which they couldn’t hit shots and the Thunder seemingly couldn’t miss in building their largest lead in this series at 17 points.

But Memphis has yet to lose on its home court this postseason and now is 19-1 here since Feb. 8.

They won their third straight overall and seventh in eight games to grab a 3-1 lead in this best-of-seven series with a win that left coach Lionel Hollins very impressed with the comeback.

“We are a team that just plays hard and doesn’t quit,” Hollins said. “We scratch. We claw. They said grit and grind. I don’t know what the heck that means, but we go out and we just battle. We compete. We’re not the most talented team that’s in the playoffs when we started out. We’re not the most talented team that’s left in the playoffs. But we go and compete.”

The Grizzlies have won only two playoff series in their rather short history. They know what a 3-1 lead means.

“We have an opportunity in front of us that we can take advantage of,” Grizzlies guard Mike Conley said. “I know our guys are focused. We’re treating it one game at a time. We know they’re going to fight like they have their backs against the wall just like they did tonight. They’re going to play with a sense of urgency, and we have to be ready.”

Game 5 is Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.

In Chicago, LeBron James and the Miami Heat didn’t even give the Chicago Bulls room to breathe, practically squeezing the playoff life out of them to take a commanding lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal.

Another effort like this will seal it.

James scored 27 points and the Heat nearly matched a franchise record for fewest points allowed in a playoff game, pounding the listless and short-handed Bulls, 88-65, on Monday night to take a 3-1 lead in the series.

“We worked for it,” said Heat forward Chris Bosh. “I never like to say that things are easy.”

AP

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