Durant, Thunder Beat Grizzlies, Advance To Western Conf. Finals
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Kevin Durant bounced back from his worst playoff performance ever to score 39 points, Russell Westbrook had his first playoff triple-double and the Oklahoma City Thunder advanced to the Western Conference finals with a 105-90 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 7 on Sunday.
Durant, the NBA scoring champion the past two seasons, followed the lowest-scoring game of his two postseason appearances with one of his best. He heated up in the second quarter after an entertaining exchange with his mother, put the Thunder in control late in the third, then put it away with a pair of two-handed slams in the fourth.
Westbrook, criticized throughout the playoffs for taking too many shots, was at his all-around best with 14 points, matching his season-high with 14 assists and producing extra possessions with 10 rebounds.
Mike Conley led Memphis with 18 points, and Zach Randolph was limited to an inefficient 17 points and 10 rebounds. Randolph averaged 28.3 points and 14.7 rebounds in the Grizzlies’ three wins in the series, but made just six of 15 shots in Game 7.
Memphis made the best postseason run in its history — having never even won a playoff game before this year — but couldn’t become the first No. 8 seed to reach the West finals.
Lionel Hollins pulled the Grizzlies’ starters with just over 2½ minutes left, after Durant hung on the rim and yelled after his second dunk of the closing minutes. Scott Brooks followed at his next chance, with Durant calmly raising his right fist as he to the sidelines with the sellout crowd standing and roaring at its loudest.
Fans started chanting “We want Dallas!” in the final minute. The Thunder will start the Western Conference finals Tuesday night against the Mavericks, just down Interstate 35.
After Memphis trailed by as much as 11 late in the first half, Randolph led the Grizzlies back in the third quarter and Conley’s 3-pointer cut it to 52-49 with 4:52 left.
Durant provided eight points — including two 3-pointers — during a 14-2 response as the Thunder regained control. After his second 3, he ran screaming to the opposite end of the court and slapped hands with former Oklahoma City player Desmond Mason, who was seated courtside.
Durant added a free throw after Hollins’ technical foul, and the Thunder led 66-51 with 1:24 to go in the third.
Oklahoma City, which had struggled to hold onto late leads in two overtime thrillers in Memphis, had no trouble closing out this one.
James Harden added four 3-pointers and 17 points for Oklahoma City, and Nick Collison had 12 rebounds.
O.J. Mayo scored 14 for Memphis but couldn’t provide the same amount of room for Randolph as he did after moving into the starting lineup in Game 6.
It was the first Game 7 of the 2011 playoffs, and the first in the career for Durant and most other players on two of the NBA’s young, rising teams.
Durant came out aggressive after scoring just 11 points on 3-for-14 shooting in Game 6. He put up nine shots in the opening quarter but made only two, with Memphis leading by as many as five in the early going.
The Grizzlies then missed 18 of 23 shots over a stretch between the midway points of the first and second quarters. The Thunder took advantage with a 13-4 run to finish the first quarter with a 21-17 advantage, then extended their lead with an unexpected spark in the second.
Arena camera crews caught Durant’s mother pumping her fist in the air and dancing at her courtside seat during a timeout, and the scoring champ got a kick out of it from across the court. He came out and hit a jumper in the lane and his first 3-pointer from the right side during a 9-0 burst that gave Oklahoma City its first double-digit lead at 33-23.
Durant had another 3 and a layup off a Westbrook alley-oop to bump the lead up to 11 before Conley’s 3-pointer got Memphis to 42-34 at halftime.
NOTES: Home teams are 86-21 in Game 7s in NBA history, and 58-14 since ABA-NBA merger before the 1976-77 season. … The Thunder had been 5-8 at home on Sundays in the regular season and playoffs, and 30-4 on all other days. … Gary Payton had the only two other postseason triple-doubles in the Thunder’s franchise history, dating to its days in Seattle.