Thunder got it done against the Grizzlies, but it wasn't pretty
MAY 04, 2014 12:16a ET
OKLAHOMA CITY - The Thunder fell behind by 11 and led by as many 22.
Russell Westbrook had a triple-double and turned it over seven times.
Kevin Durant? Well, he was Kevin Durant.
What happened Saturday night, in the biggest game of the season, is exactly what has happened for the better part of four seasons in Oklahoma City.
Sweet and sour. Maddening and magical. All in the same game.
This is who the Thunder are - good enough to win an NBA title but dizzying, erratic and unpredictable enough to struggle in any game, series, moment or situation.
Just like they were Saturday. Oklahoma City won, 120-109, moved onto the second round of the Western Conference playoffs with a second-consecutive spectacular performance. Now, the previous four games, the Thunder weren't at their best, and the first half Saturday they weren't either, turning it over 10 times and allowing 47.7 percent shooting.
And in a series where the Thunder shot 41 percent as a team, they finished it off by shooting better than 60 percent Saturday night.
"You know it's coming," Memphis coach Dave Joerger said of Durant and Westbrook.
It did Thursday in Game 6 and again Saturday in Game 7.
Saturday, Durant made all five 3-pointers he took and finished 12-of-18 for 33 points. He had 36 on Thursday to go along with 10 rebounds, yet for most of the series, Durant wasn't himself. He struggled and was stifled by Tony Allen. Durant, unflappable and stoic during this MVP season, admitted to being motivated by the media after worrying too much about what was said about him.
"I just forgot about everything and played my game," Durant said of what changed in Game 6 and 7. "Keep it simple. I learned a valuable lesson in this series. I got out of my own way."
Westbrook went 10-of-16, had 16 assists, 10 rebounds and 27 points Saturday. He made a falling-out-of-bounds 3-pointer and controlled the game with his speed, timing and tempo. It all resulted in a triple-double, his second against Memphis in the two times he's played a Game 7 against the Grizzlies.
Yet, for a good, long stretch of this seven-game series against Memphis, Westbrook was often too fast, or out of control or careless. He took 38 3-pointers in the first five games of the series. In Games 6 and 7, Westbrook shot a total of four.
But by now you know, that's how Westbrook is, that's how Durant is and that's how the Thunder are. No need to be surprised any more.
"It's simple," OKC coach Scott Brooks said. "You have to stay with what you do."
So, when Memphis lost Zach Randolph to an ejection, shifted its lineup from big to small, played up-tempo, instead of the typical slower pace the Grizzlies usually feature, it didn't matter. This wasn't about what Memphis did or who Memphis had and didn't have.
Game 6, and then again in Game 7, the Thunder did what they have always done - they got back to what they do.
"Their main players took tough shots and made them," Marc Gasol said. "Give them credit."
"They are very difficult to beat when they are both hot," Mike Conley said. "You have to give them so much attention."
"Durant made a lot of shots," Joerger said. "My hat's off to them. Tonight Russ and Kevin Durant were fantastic. We made them take some tough shots and they made some tough shots."
And there you have it. Much is made of the team's lack of interest on defense or inability to move the ball on offense, but that's not what this team is about or who these players are.
Durant and Westbrook are the closest thing to unguardable. They outscore teams by getting by their defenders then either shooting or finding an open teammate. That's what happened Saturday.
And in a series where the Thunder played good defense and bad defense, it was the offense of Durant and Westbrook that bailed them out.
Durant and Westbrook combined for 60 points and missed just 12-of-34 shots Saturday.
"You're not going to have the same blueprint every night," Brook said. "You're not going to have the same shots every night."
But Brooks is wrong. The blueprint is the same, only the results change.
And Saturday's was pretty good.
Think the Thunder can win the title this season? Tell me on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK