Thunder Rolls Into West Semi-Finals
By Randy Renner
The Thunder got off to a shaky start but quickly snapped out of behind a hot night from Kevin Durant and a historic one from Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook finished with his second triple-double of this series with 27 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds and he became just the second player in NBA history to have two triple-doubles in Game 7s. Boston's Rajon Rondo had two during the 2012 playoffs. Westbrook's other Game 7 triple-double also came against Memphis in the 2011 playoffs.
Durant scored 33 points on 12-for-18 shooting and was perfect from beyond the arc going 5-for-5. Durant had been just 4-for-29 from deep the previous six games of this series.
"I was finally able to get out of my own way tonight," Durant said. "I was thinking too much (during his shooting slump) and worried too much about what you guys (the media) were saying. I just relaxed and played my game."
And it turns out that now infamous "Mr. Unreliable" headline in The Oklahoman may have actually fired up KD afterall.
"You guys (the media) motivated me a little bit even though I told you you didn't."
Durant had definitely been in a shooting slump in the first five games of the series, he'd been scoring a lot of points but it was taking him a lot of shots to get there.
After the headline Durant has scored a combined 69 points on 33-for-51 shooting, 64.7 percent.
"Kevin is one of the best players on the planet, just having him on the floor helps us out," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. "As the series went along Kevin got better setups and better shots for himself."
The Grizzlies had to play without their leading scorer and leading rebounder Zach Randolph who had been suspended for Game 7 after punching Thunder center Steven Adams in the face during Game 6.
Memphis started fast mostly because of Thunder turnovers and a switch to a small lineup. Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger started Mike Miller in place of Z-Bo and put Tony Allen at small forward. They scored 36 points in the first quarter on 57.1 percent shooting and the Thunder turned it over seven times for 10 of those Grizz points.
But from the second quarter on the Thunder played lock down defense, holding the Grizzlies to just 40.3 percent shooting. Gasol got off to a blistering start scoring 13 first quarter points on 6-for-8 shooting but he was just 1-for-12 the rest of the way.
"Not having Zach effects our team, we don't play that (small ball) style but we thought tonight it gave us the best chance to win," said Joerger. "We played our tails off tonight but we just didn't have enough."
Joerger was also very complimentary of the Thunder and superstars Durant and Westbrook.
"Kevin and Russ were absolutely terrific. We made them take tough shots and they made tough shots."
The Thunder also got big games tonight from sixth man Reggie Jackson (16 points on 5-for-6 shooting) and Caron Butler who dropped in 15 but was just 3-for-10 shooting.
Reggie by the way had a great series from beyond the arc. He was 2-for-3 tonight and finished the series at 10-for-21 (47.6 percent) but three of those 21 shots were end of quarter heaves from half court or so. Take those away and Jackson is 10-for-18 (55.5 percent).
The Thunder will practice on Sunday then Game 1 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals will be at The Peake Monday night.