Thunder give away huge lead, but recover to beat Grizz in Game 1
Kevin Durant put a dazzling end to Memphis’ gritty comeback.
The Grizzlies erased most of a 25-point deficit before Durant, the league’s scoring champion, got hot. He scored 13 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter to help the Oklahoma City Thunder defeat Memphis 100-86 on Saturday night in the opening game of their first-round playoff series.
The Thunder already were regaining control in the fourth quarter before Durant took over. He scored 11 points in a 5-minute, 21-second surge that stretched Oklahoma City’s lead from seven points to 14 and put the game out of reach.
"We just stayed together," Durant said. "We made plays in the fourth quarter. The third quarter was tough for us, but we stayed together. We didn’t stray away."
Russell Westbrook had 23 points and 10 rebounds and Serge Ibaka added 17 points and nine rebounds for the Thunder.
Zach Randolph led Memphis with 21 points and 11 rebounds, but he made just seven of 21 shots and got into foul trouble in the second half. Mike Conley had 16 points and 11 assists, Marc Gasol scored 16 points and Tony Allen added 13 points for the Grizzlies. Memphis might have stolen the game if not for a miserable first half.
"We’ve got to make adjustments to get off to a better start," Randolph said. "We can’t exert so much energy trying to come back from 20 points. It’s the first game, we’ve got to stick together. We’ve been here before, we know what we’ve got to do and come out and be ready for Monday."
Memphis shot just 36 percent from the field and made just 18 of 31 free throws.
"We got good looks. I can’t say it was anything other than that," Conley said. "We got good looks. We got some open 3s. Our bigs got some good looks in the post. We just didn’t knock them down. We have to be more focused at the line as well. Making free throws is a big deal for us. We got opportunities. We’ve got to make them."
Oklahoma City was the only home team to win on the first day of the postseason, but the Thunder nearly made it four losses for higher seeds after getting outscored 31-13 in the third quarter.
"We didn’t want to be the leading trend on losing a home game," Westbrook said. "We’re just happy we won a game. We did a great job of just coming out and hitting them first. They’re a physical team and we did a great job of going by our game plan."
The Thunder pushed the pace to take an 8-0 lead, and Memphis called a timeout less than three minutes into the game. Conley finally scored Memphis’ first point at the 9:04 mark after the Grizzlies missed their first five shots.
The Thunder led 29-16 at the end of the first period. Oklahoma City shot 52 percent in the first 12 minutes while holding the Grizzlies to 17 percent shooting.
Oklahoma City continued the onslaught into the second quarter and took a 56-34 advantage into the locker room.
Memphis scored the first six points of the second half, and though Oklahoma City quickly called a timeout, the Grizzlies continued their surge. A three-point play by Allen trimmed the Thunder’s lead to 60-51, and by the end of the third quarter, Memphis had cut its deficit to 69-65. Allen scored nine points in the third quarter, and Randolph scored eight. Memphis held Oklahoma City to 3-for-16 shooting in the period.
"I just think as a point guard, my job is to set the tone, and I didn’t do a great job of that in the third quarter, of coming out and setting the tone," Westbrook said. "I had a few bad turnovers and kind of let them get easy baskets. I’ve got to do a better job of that."
The Grizzlies had whittled Oklahoma City’s lead down to three early in the fourth before a powerful drive and jam by Caron Butler brought life back to the nervous arena and gave the Thunder a 74-69 lead with just under nine minutes to play. Memphis’ Mike Miller came back with a 3-pointer to make it a two-point game, but the Thunder responded with a 13-1 run.
Though Oklahoma City held on, Memphis will take confidence from its rally into Game 2.
"We see what we did," Randolph said. "I think we cut it down to two, and they made another run, but we see what we can do. We know what we can do and we’ve got to come like that at the beginning of the game."
NOTES: Saturday was the 19-year anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City. The crowd observed a moment of silence before tip-off. … Memphis reserve point guard Nick Calathes has been suspended for 20 games for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy, starting Saturday. The league said Friday night in a release that Calathes tested positive for tamoxifen. "It is what it is," Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said before the game. "We’ve dealt with adversity all season." … Thunder rookie Steven Adams blocked three shots in the first quarter in just 1:26. The Thunder blocked five shots in the period.