Thunder 114, Grizzlies 105
Kevin Durant earned himself a place in NBA history. Without a
trip to the playoffs, too, it would be nearly as special.
Durant scored 31 points to finish the season as the youngest NBA
scoring champion, and the Oklahoma City Thunder survived a sloppy
second half to head into the postseason with a 114-105 win
Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.
“It’s something I really wasn’t coming into the year saying I
wanted to get but it feels good to be a part of history and
something I’m going to always remember,” Durant said. “It feels
even better to get 50 wins.”
Durant had the scoring title all but locked up after a
late-season surge that included three 40-point games in April. It
became a certainty when Cleveland decided to rest reigning MVP
LeBron James, the only player with even an outside shot at catching
The 21-year-old finished with an average of 30.1 points, 0.4
ahead of James, and supplanted 22-year-old Max Zaslofsky of the
1947-48 Chicago Stags as the youngest scoring champ in NBA
“I love Kevin Durant. I love what he’s about,” Thunder coach
Scott Brooks said. “The guy is pretty amazing, that he’s able to
handle himself at such a young age.
“This is the only time I will say that he’s young. He’s 21
years old but he handles himself with such class and respect for
the game, and he’s a great teammate.”
Oklahoma City strayed from the league-wide trend of resting
stars, even with nothing to gain but the momentum lost while
dropping four of their previous five games. James, the Lakers’ Kobe
Bryant, Miami’s Dwyane Wade and Boston’s “Big Three” of Kevin
Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce all took to the bench to finish
the season. Even San Antonio – which had room to gain in the West
standings – played without Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
Durant joined three other Oklahoma City starters in playing all
82 games this season, and he eclipsed 30 points for the 47th time
“Thirty points is a monster game. My career-high was only 23
and that was two games combined,” said Brooks, who actually once
scored 23 in a single game.
“That’s the beauty of his game. He makes it look easy, and I
think all the great scorers do that. Kevin’s not just focused on
scoring. … He does the little things that helped us get the wins
that we’ve gotten this year.”
After a 27-win improvement that’s one of the biggest in NBA
history, Oklahoma City will meet the defending champion Los Angeles
Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
Rudy Gay scored 25 points and Zach Randolph had 21 points and 11
rebounds for his 57th double-double of the season as the Grizzlies
lost for the ninth time in their final 11 games. Memphis had the
second-biggest turnaround in the league – increasing its win total
by 16 – but fell just shy of .500 at 40-42.
The teams started the season as the two youngest in the NBA.
“Every team in the West won 50 games to make the playoffs. We
won 40,” coach Lionel Hollins said. “So we’ve got some games to
go to get up there to where we need to be in order to be in the
playoffs. But I’m happy with our growth, I’m happy with the
individual growth and it’s over now and we move forward to next
With Durant and the rest of the healthy starters in the lineup,
the Thunder seemed to be putting on a show in front of their 28th
sellout crowd of the season at the Ford Center – at least for a
Then Oklahoma City had to finish strong after letting a 27-point
lead dwindle to 97-91 in the final 7 minutes. Brooks finally pulled
his starters with under 2 minutes left after an 8-2 run sealed the
The players walked onto the court and waved to the crowd in
appreciation after the final horn sounded.
“At this time, we were ready to go home last year and enjoy our
summers. It feels good to come here and be a winning program,”
Durant said. “It was a huge turnaround for us, especially since we
kept everybody and just gained a couple rookies. We didn’t make a
big trade, we didn’t get two All-Stars or whatever.
“We kept everybody and we just continued to work.”
NOTES: Oklahoma City PG Russell Westbrook, who had his first
assist-free game of the season on Monday night against Portland,
also had zero in the first quarter before racking up five in the
final 6 minutes of the first half. … The Thunder recalled C Byron
Mullens and G Mustafa Shakur from the D-League prior to the game,
but only Mullens was on the active roster. … Oklahoma City sold
out its final 11 home games.