Sunday's Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals between Oklahoma City and Memphis confirmed all suspicions about the style for this series: it's going to be the polar-opposite of the Thunder's opening series against Houston.
It also proved it's going to be a knock-down, dragged-out slugfest, but an exciting slugfest at that. That is, if the other games of the series live up to the excitement of Game 1.
Kevin Durant hit a go-ahead jumper with 11.1 seconds left to lift Oklahoma City to a thrilling Game 1 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, 93-91.
Durant's jumper came in transition after Derek Fisher poked the ball away from Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley on a drive to the basket with Memphis up, 90-89.
The Grizzlies had a chance to take the lead on the ensuing possession, but Thabo Sefolosha deflected a pass off Conley out of bounds to give OKC the ball with 3.5 seconds remaining.
Reggie Jackson was then fouled and calmly hit two free throws with 2.9 seconds left to give the Thunder a three-point lead However, Jackson showed a bit of youth on the next possession, fouling Quincy Pondexter as he was attempting a game-tying 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds remaining. Pondexter then allowed all of Chesapeake Energy Arena to exhale, missing the first free throw to all but clinch the win for the Thunder.
Durant finished with 35 points and a game-high 15 rebounds, taking over when the Thunder needed him to, and distributing the ball to his teammates for open looks from the perimeter at other times. It was a terrific performance, one that encapsulated Durant's enormous talent and his unwavering trust in his teammates.
Kevin Martin once again came up huge for the Thunder, scoring 25 points for the second straight game on a very efficient 8-for-14 performance from the field. Martin scored 15 points in the first half, all over a six-minute stretch of the second quarter that helped Oklahoma City turn a 21-14 deficit into a 39-36 lead.
The first quarter was abysmal from an offensive standpoint, as it took over two minutes for either team to score and almost four minutes before the Thunder put points on the board with two Serge Ibaka free throws. Oklahoma City finally got a shot to fall on a Durant jumper with 7:01 remaining in the quarter. At that point, the Thunder was 0-for-10 from the field.
The play didn't improve much for either team. With 3:43 to play in the first period, the score was tied at nine, and the two teams were a combined 6-for-31.
The play was much easier on the eyes the rest of the game, but the nip-and-tuck theme didn't go away. After trailing 47-46 at the break, Memphis came out firing in the third quarter, hitting seven of its first 11 shots to take a 61-53 lead. The run was led by Marc Gasol, who led the team with 20 points and 10 rebounds, one of five Grizzlies players in double-figures scoring.
Oklahoma City meanwhile—in a move that has become disturbingly common in these playoffs—made just two field goals in the first seven and a half minutes of the half before Martin buried a 3-pointer to cut a 10-point deficit to seven.
A surprising pair of 3-pointers—Memphis finished last in the NBA in 3-point attempts and makes this season—helped push the Grizzlies lead to 12 before OKC rallied.
In the fourth, it was once again the Thunder role players that brought OKC back. Fisher and Martin scored the first nine points of the quarter to draw OKC to within 75-73. After another Gasol jumper pushed the Memphis lead to 84-77 with 6:24 remaining, Oklahoma City responded with a 7-0 run to tie the game at 84 with 3:46 left.