Saturday, May 14, 2011

Durant, Thunder ease past Grizzlies 99-72

Russell Westbrook, 1:53, "That young man is an athlete!" - Greg Anthony (?)

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Durant, Thunder ease past Grizzlies 99-72

Posted May 12 2011 1:26AM


Kevin Durant's work was done early.

After three quarters. Not three overtimes.

Instead of hunting down key shots, he was tracking down a T-shirt from the stands and reveling in the Oklahoma City Thunder's 99-72 blowout of the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night that gave them their first series lead in the Western Conference semifinals.

The Thunder lead 3-2 heading into Game 6 on Friday night in Memphis. They got there with ease considering what happened in a triple-overtime thriller two nights earlier.
"There was no fatigue factor for us. ... I thought our guys came in with focus," Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "You beat good teams by really executing very well and with good effort, and we did both of them tonight."

After squandering a 16-point lead in the second half and losing Game 3 in overtime, the Thunder blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter before winning Game 4 in three overtimes on Monday night.

This time, it was all over well before the final buzzer.

"Going through that kind of molds our character, I think, and brings us closer together," Durant said. "Losing Game 3 the way we did and winning Game 4 the way we did, it kind of showed what type of team we are, what type of courage and heart we have."

Marc Gasol had 16 points to lead Memphis, which didn't have much left after such a draining loss on its home court.

The Grizzlies shot a season-worst 36 percent, matched their lowest point total from the regular season and never put up much of a fight in the second half.

"Shots weren't falling for us but you still have to come with great effort and we didn't bring it at all," guard Mike Conley said. "They outplayed us in every area of the game. I wish I could tell you why. It just wasn't there.

"They hit us and kept hitting us and we didn't fight back."

They were far enough behind that Durant and fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook didn't even have to play in the fourth quarter.

By the end, Durant was wearing one of the same white Thunder T-shirts as the sellout crowd and was standing on the sidelines directing the lineup of reserves that got to play in garbage time.

"It's always better for the home team in these situations, and the team that won the game," Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said. "Not only were we physically down, we were probably down a little bit mentally, but I'm not making excuses for our group.
"We didn't play very well. We didn't shoot the ball very well. We missed a ton of layups."

After a classic Game 4, when the Thunder had chances to win at the end of regulation and each of the first two overtimes, Brooks said it was like "three wins in one."
It may have won them at least two.

The Grizzlies were a ragged bunch throughout the game after losing the triple-overtime thriller 133-123 on their home court and can only hope to get re-energized by returning to the FedEx Forum with their season on the line Friday night.

"I don't think we'll have a problem getting up for this one," Conley said. "We got embarrassed tonight."

Zach Randolph, who played 56 minutes in the marathon Game 4, never was effective for Memphis. He finished with nine points and seven rebounds, and even missed four of his first five free throws. He had been averaging 26 points and 14 rebounds in the series.

Gasol, his partner in the potent frontcourt that powered Memphis to a win in Oklahoma City in Game 1, did most of his damage during a 6-minute stretch in the third quarter.

Then the Grizzlies fell hopelessly behind.

Oklahoma City's Nick Collison capped a four-point possession by turning an offensive rebound into a three-point play. When he converted the free throw, it completed a string of seven straight points by the Thunder to bump the lead to 65-46 late in the third quarter.

Memphis didn't stand a chance of a comeback. Too many missed layups. Too many short shots that clanked off the front rim. Too little energy left.

Conley made just 4 of 16 shots, Tony Allen was 4 for 13 and O.J. Mayo 2 for 8 on a dreadful night when nothing was going in.

"We've got our backs against the wall and we've got to bounce back and come out at home swinging," Gasol said. "We have no other chance to lose another one.

"We've got to go right away and win the next game. There's no other choice."

Memphis didn't reach 50 points until there was 2:04 left in the third quarter, and the Thunder quickly squelched any hopes of yet another wild comeback.

Collison had a two-handed dunk, Cook hit a 3-pointer and Nazr Mohammed made a layup during a string of seven straight Oklahoma City points early in the fourth quarter and the lead grew to 27 before both coaches emptied their benches for the final 4 minutes.

Westbrook had 11 points in 25 minutes - half of what he played in Game 4. Mohammed added 10 points and Collison had nine points and 10 rebounds, helping the Thunder to a 50-33 edge on the boards.

Oklahoma City came up empty on its first seven possessions and turned the ball over nine times in the first quarter, but Memphis couldn't take advantage and never led by more than six.

The Grizzlies got just nine points off of the Thunder's 11 turnovers in the first 12 minutes.

"Early on when we had energy, we kept shooting ourselves in the foot by missing layups or turning the ball over in transition or not finishing in transition," Hollins said. "So that was huge."

When the Thunder finally put together 5 straight minutes without a turnover, they stormed ahead with a 15-2 run late in the first half, featuring a 3-pointer by Westbrook and two-handed slams by James Harden and Durant.

Durant thumped his chest after his dunk, with Oklahoma City on its way to a 46-35 halftime lead it would never give up.

NOTES: There have been only six NBA playoff games that went at least three overtimes, and Kendrick Perkins has played in the last two. He was with Boston for a triple-OT game against Chicago in 2009, before Monday night's marathon in Memphis. ... The Thunder came into the game leading all playoff teams in scoring (105.4), free throw percentage (81.0), defensive rebounds (33.8), total rebounds (47.1), blocks (8.2) and personal fouls (26.4). ... After Gasol tipped away a second-quarter jump ball on its way up, referee Monty McCutchen tossed the do-over while Gasol wasn't looking.

Grizzlies-Thunder notebook

By Randy Renner, for
Posted Thursday May 12, 2011 1:14AM

THE FACTS: After a draining triple-overtime game Monday night, Memphis center Marc Gasol thought fatigue would play a factor in Game 5 and it did. The Grizzlies had nothing in the tank from the start and the Oklahoma City Thunder never took their feet off the gas blowing out Memphis 99-72. Thunder players and coaches said before the game they felt energized despite the long contest less than 44 hours before the tip-off of Game 5 and it showed. Both teams managed just 17 points in the first quarter but OKC took control after that. Thunder two-time All-Star Kevin Durant led all scorers with 19 points and he spent the entire fourth quarter on the bench. Oklahoma City's bench outscored the Memphis starters 53-45. Thunder 3-poiont specialist Daequan Cook was hot, going 6-for-7 overall and 4-for-5 from long range to finish with 18 points. Gasol led Memphis with 15 points and teammate Zach Randolph, who appeared frustrated at times, managed just nine points on 3-for-9 shooting. Memphis must win Friday night to force a Game 7 back in Oklahoma City. If not, the Thunder will be in Dallas Sunday to open the Western Conference finals against the Mavs.

QUOTABLE: "NBA players have the hearts of champions, I don't know if fatigue was a factor for them but it wasn't on our end."
-- Thunder coach Scott Brooks

QUOTABLE II: "We were physically down and we were mentally down but we're not making any excuses. Our starters were running in mud for a while out there in the second quarter and it was Katy bar the door after that."
-- Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins

QUOTABLE III: "Fatigue wasn't as much an issue as effort when we got down we gave up too easily."
-- Marc Gasol

THE STAT: Oklahoma City outrebounded Memphis 50-33 (15-8 on the offensive end). The Thunder doubled the Griz in second chance points (18-9) and led in fast break points 20-7.

TURNING POINT: The teams battled to a 17-all standstill in the first quarter, but after that, it was all Oklahoma City. The Thunder outscored Memphis 29-18 in the second quarter and never looked back building a 27 point lead and resting their starters much of the fourth quarter.

QUOTABLE IV: "I still believe in our team. It's a one game series now we have to win in Memphis Friday if we don't there won't be a game for us on Sunday."
-- Lionel Hollins

HOT: Over the last five minutes of the first quarter, Oklahoma City was 5-for-7 (71.4 percent) from the field...In the first half, OKC's James Harden had nine points on 4-for-5 shooting...Cook finished with 18 points on 6-for-7 shooting.

NOT: In the first four minutes of the game, the Thunder were just 1-for-6 (16.7 percent)...In the first half, Memphis point guard Mike Conley had four points on 2-for-10 shooting and Randolph had five points on 2-for-8...Memphis was 1-for-5 on 3-pointers at the half and managed just 35 points, a playoff low, on 38.1 percent shooting...Conley finished 4-for-16...Tony Allen was 4-for-13...Memphis was just 14-for-23 on free throws (60.9 percent) and shot 35.9 percent overall.

INSIDE THE ARENA: 18,203 white tee-shirts tonight inside Oklahoma City Arena, every other playoff game featured blue tees. Among those in the crowd rodeo star Cord McCoy, a native Oklahoman and recent star of the CBS series Amazing Race sat courtside and so did NBA "Superfan" James Goldstein.

GOOD MOVE: Halfway through the first quarter, Durant grabbed a rebound, trotted up the floor, turned on the jets at midcourt, split two defenders in the lane and scored on a layup.

GOOD MOVE TOO: Brooks brought in sixth man James Harden earlier than usual in the first quarter. The move paid off immediately as Harden scored seven points on 3-for-3 shooting, including a 3-pointer at the first quarter horn.

GOOD MOVE III: Late in the first half, Durant drived toward the lane off the right wing, then passed down low to point guard Russell Westbrook, who then passed behind his back, over his head and through the arms of Memphis forward Sam Young to Harden, who leaped into the air and jammed the ball home for a 37-31 OKC lead.

NOTABLE: In the first four games of the series, Durant and Westbrook accounted for 53 percent of their team's scoring and their teammates came in at 47 percent. Wednesday night, Durant and Westbrook were just 30 percent of the Thunder's scoring and the rest of the team accounted for 70 percent.

UP NEXT: Game 6 in the Thunder-Grizzlies series is set for Friday night in Memphis. Tip-off is 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.

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