7 Up: Thunder Wins Series, Sends Grizzlies Into Hibernation

Saturday, May 3rd 2014, 10:31 pm
By: News 9

It took seven long, hard, grueling games, but the Thunder found a way.  

Kevin Durant poured in 33 points as the rejuvenated Thunder cruised past the shorthanded Memphis Grizzlies by a score of 120-109.   


The Thunder sprinted out to an 11-4 start, capped off by a Durant 3-ball. Memphis coach Dave Joerger was forced into a timeout and Chesapeake Arena was roaring.

But then the Grizzlies awoke from their slumber.

Memphis, playing without start power forward Zach Randolph (suspension), began to take advantage of its smaller lineup. The Grizzlies started Tony Allen in place of Tayshaun Prince and guard Mike Miller for Randolph.

Memphis closed the quarter on a 32-16 run and took a nine-point advantage into the second period.

Marc Gasol drained two free throws at the 8:40 mark of the second quarter to extend the Grizzlies' lead to 10, but Oklahoma City woke up in a hurry.

A 10-0 Thunder run tied the ball game and seemed to crush the Grizzlies' spirit.

Still tied with just seconds remaining in the half, the MVP rose up and buried a 3-pointer to give the Thunder a 61-58 lead at the half.

RELATED STORY: Thunder 120, Grizzlies 109: By The Numbers

Oklahoma City came out in the third with the same fire.

Durant scored a quick eight points as OKC shot out of the gate on a 17-5 run.  The scoring burst gave the Thunder a 78-63 lead and they never looked back.

After taking heavy criticism for his performance in the first five games of the series, Durant responded by scoring 69 points in Games 6 and 7.  He explained afterward that his change in performance was mostly mental.

"I got out of my own way, I was thinking too much," Durant said. "I was worried about what you guys were saying. I realized that I started playing this game to have fun and I didn't want to take the pure fun out of the game."

But the turnaround had more to it than just Durant playing better.  The Thunder looked better as a whole, and Gasol noticed.  

"When shots go in your offense looks a lot better," Gasol explained. "Their main players took tough shots and made ‘em. A couple times we over helped and they burned us, they burned me. A couple times we over helped on Kevin and Westbrook they found the open guy."

Gasol went on to discuss the difficulty of stopping the Thunder when both Durant and Westbrook play well.

"They're very difficult to beat when they're both hot," Gasol explained.  "You have to give so much attention to them that they're able to make plays for other guys. They made plays for Ibaka, Kendrick, Caron, all those guys.  That's what great players do."

As great as Durant was, Russell Westbrook was just as dominant.  Westbrook finished with 27 points on 10-16 shooting while also finding time to dish out 16 assists and grab 10 rebounds.  In the process, Westbrook joined Boston's Rajon Rondo as the only players in NBA history with two career Game-7 triple doubles.  

"I have no idea why he takes the flack that he takes; this man can play," Joerger said after the game. "He's one of the most talented people in the league, it's unfathomable that he takes (that much flack), I don't understand.  He was aggressive without being out of control, and so he was able to find some guys on the perimeter, hit ‘em in the hands and guys felt comfortable shooting those shots and made shots."

Westbrook credited his teammates for making his job a little easier.  

"I just tried to find the balance of getting my teammates involved but also staying aggressive," Westbrook explained. "That's something you do at my position. My teammates have done a great job spacing out and making shots which makes it easy for me to see where my reads are."

Reggie Jackson added 16 points on 5-6 shooting off the Thunder bench.

Trailing 3-2 in the series, many people wrote this team off, but they weren't going anywhere.  

"Our backs were against the wall but we showed a lot of character," Durant said.  

The Thunder will host the Los Angeles Clippers for Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals in Oklahoma City on Monday night.

RELATED STORY: Thunder Will Play Clippers In Western Conference Semifinals

Tip time is 8:30 CT.