NBA Playoffs: OKC Thunder 1-4 Memphis Grizzlies

Marc Gasol leads the Grizzlies to victory

Marc Gasol leads the Grizzlies to victory

Last season’s runners-up were dealt a big blow in Round 1 when Russell Westbrook suffered a knee injury which ruled him out of the Playoffs. OKC had enough depth to deal with the challenge of Houston but were up against it taking on Memphis and the Grizzlies progressed to the Conference Finals following up their 4-2 win over the Clippers in the first round.

GAME 1: Memphis 91-93 Oklahoma @ Chesapeake Energy Arena

Kevin Durant led his OKC side to a 1-0 series lead with an impressive performance consisting of 35 points, 15 rebounds, six assists and 2 blocks. Kevin Martin added a further 25 from the bench as the hosts battled back from as many as 12 down to take care of their home advantage. Marc Gasol had a 20-10 double-double for the visitors who came close to forcing overtime but Quincy Pondexter could only convert one of three FT attempts as the Grizzlies fell short. The teams were evenly matched in the first half before Memphis threatened to break clear in the third as they established a 12 point lead following a 14-5 run. Derek Fisher and Martin both netted from beyond the arc at the start of the fourth as OKC began to close the gap. Memphis still led at 90-87 with just over a minute left but two jumpers from Durant were followed by a pair of free throws from Reggie Jackson to effectively seal the win before Pondexter‘s misfortunes at the line.

OKC lead the best-of-7-series 1-0.

GAME 2: Memphis 99-93 Oklahoma @ Chesapeake Energy Arena

Durant (36-11-9) came even closer to a triple double with another leading performance for OKC but his efforts were matched by Mike Conley, who had a 26-10-9 game to inspire Memphis to a series levelling result. After the visitors edged the opening quarter, OKC moved ahead by half-time after a 13 point second quarter from Fisher which included a perfect 3 from 3 from downtown. KD then matched his team-mate’s efforts with 13 points of his own in the third and OKC took a five point lead into the final quarter. The teams were tied on five occasions before Kendrick Perkins’ free throws gave the hosts a slender 90-89 advantage with 2:41 to go. Conley then sparked a pivotal 10-0 run to seal the road win before Fisher ended the game with his fourth triple to stop the rot at the buzzer. The veteran rolled back the years with a 19 point haul off the bench but Conley was invaluable for the Grizzlies while Gasol contributed 24-5-5 as they stole the series initiative from the number 1 seeds.

The best-of-7-series tied at 1-1.

GAME 3: Oklahoma 81-87 Memphis @ FedEx Forum

Memphis made the most of home advantage to take a 2-1 series lead over Oklahoma after another tense encounter between the two sides. OKC shot a disappointing 36% from the field while both teams struggled from beyond the arc. The hosts made a bright start and were up by ten in the second quarter but OKC recovered with an 11-2 run which helped build a 45-44 lead at the half. Gasol had a strong third quarter with 12 points which saw Memphis move closer to another double figures advantage before Durant ended the third with a triple to make it a six point differential. Every time Memphis threatened to break clear, they were pegged back by the Thunder and Fisher‘s triple tied the game at 81 with just under two minutes to go. However, just as it seemed the momentum was with the visitors, they began missing and Memphis held their nerve at the line, to produce a strong finish as they did in game 2, making 6/6 to seal the win. Gasol was again a key contributor for the Grizzlies with a 20-9-4 stat-line while Durant‘s 25-11-5 was in vain once more.

Memphis lead the best-of-7-series 2-1.

GAME 4: Oklahoma 97-103 Memphis (OT) @ FedEx Forum

Memphis recovered from a slow start to move on the verge of a series victory after defeating Oklahoma in overtime. The visitors made a fast start with Serge Ibaka and Durant combining for 16 points in a 29-18 opening quarter. The lead peaked at 17 midway through the second on a KD triple before the Grizzlies managed to halve the deficit heading into the break courtesy of a couple of late 3-pointers from Jerryd Bayless. Down in double digits, the home side built some momentum with a 24-10 spell to take the lead for the first time at 76-74. The teams continued to trade leads throughout the fourth before a free throw each from Zach Randolph and Gasol made it 92-90 with 10.9 seconds on the clock. Up stepped Durant, with the finger roll lay-in to tie the game and extend the game beyond regulation. However, KD would then go 0-5 from the field in OT while OKC were kept scoreless in the final 1:55 and Tayshaun Prince and Gasol  capitalised to secure a huge victory for the Grizzlies. The DPOY led the way once again for the hosts with 23 points and 11 rebounds while Randolph produced a similar performance but managed to grab an extra rebound. Conley had a team-high 24 points while Durant took the overall scoring honours with 27 points as OKC fell short down the stretch when it matters most yet again.

Memphis lead the best-of-7-series 3-1.

GAME 5: Memphis 88-84 Oklahoma @ Chesapeake Energy Arena

Randolph delivered his best play-off performance to help close out the series after a relatively quiet first three games for the Grizzlies. The 31 year-old All-Star had a huge game with 28 points and 14 rebounds to help eliminate the top seeds of the West. Memphis were dominant in the second after an even start and compiled a 14-3 close to the half to lead 50-38. However, in the third it was the turn of OKC to produce a strong finish to a quarter and a 16-4 burst helped to close within two points as they headed into a must-win final quarter down 64-62. A solitary Durant basket was their only addition to the scoreboard in the opening six minutes of the fourth as Memphis steadily increased their advantage. An 11-3 run gave them hope and even more so when Reggie Jackson nailed a three in the final minute to make it a two-point game. Durant squandered the chance to tie it up and Tony Allen closed out the game and the series with a pair of free throws. Conley dished out 11 assists to compliment his 13 points to round-off an impressive series from the point guard while for the 5th game running, Durant led OKC with another 20+ point haul whilst coming close to a triple-double yet again. Westbrook is often criticized for being too selfish but there is no coincidence of OKC’s downfall since his injury.

Memphis win the best-of-7-series 4-1. 

                   Top 5 players

  1. Marc Gasol 19.4 ppg; 8.4 rpg; 2.8 bpg
  2. Mike Conley 18.0 ppg; 6.8 apg; 6.4 rpg
  3. Kevin Durant 28.8 ppg; 10.4 rpg; 6.6 apg
  4. Tony Allen 10.0 ppg; 5.0 rpg; 2.4 spg
  5. Reggie Jackson 13.8 ppg; 6.2 rpg; 50% FG; 92.3% FT

Game Night! ft. NY Knicks @ OKC Thunder

Melo continues hot streak for Knicks while the Lakers faulter in play-off charge

Carmelo Anthony took his points total to 177 in his last four games with another 36 in New York’s 12th straight victory after beating OKC (56-21) 125-120. The Knicks 50-26) had a productive second quarter to inspire a 50th win this season with JR Smith netting some huge shots late on. Russell Westbrook had an impressive all-round performance for the Thunder with 37-11-8 although Oklahoma missed out on the chance to return to the top of the Western standings.

Knicks‘ centre Tyson Chandler (15pts) was delighted with the win:

“This was huge for us, it’s very hard to come into this building and get a win, I’m really proud of the way we kept fighting”

Serge Ibaka came out firing in the first quarter and had 9 points, 3 rebounds and 4 blocks after the opening 12 minutes as OKC opened up a slender 31-30 advantage. Chris Copeland came off the bench to score 11 points alongside Anthony in a dominant second quarter for the Knicks as they took control to lead 65-56 at the interval. OKC battled back and closed to within a point before Melo struck two triples late in the quarter and New York led 96-89 after three.

The hosts compiled a 13-4 burst in the final quarter capped by a Durant jumper as the Thunder took the lead at 105-104. Jason Kidd responded with his fourth 3-pointer of the game before soon after Westbrook took his tally to 30 points as OKC went up by one with 4:00 left. However, the visitors kept their streak alive with an 11-2 spell over the next three and a half minutes with Smith adding five points in quick succession before Melo sealed the win.

Anthony has now taken over as the leading scorer in the league with an average of 28.4 points per game

The Lakers (40-37) dropped outside of the play-off places after a 109-95 defeat against their LA rivals. CP3 (24pts/12as) and Blake Griffin (24pts/12rbs) both recorded double-doubles as the Clippers (51-26)completed a 4-0 sweep over the Lakers and won the Pacific Division title for the first time. Kobe Bryant did his best to lead his side to victory with 25 points and 10 assists while Dwight Howard matched his points haul in the absence of Steve Nash and Ron Artest.

Utah Jazz (41-37) capitalised on the Lakers’ defeat with a 97-90 win on the road against fellow play-off hopefuls, Golden State (44-33). Mo Williams led the way with 25 points while Steph Curry had 22 points for the Warriors as they missed out on a victory which would have secured their post-season spot. One team, in the West, already in the play-offs are Memphis and the Grizzlies (52-25) ground out a tough 89-87 on the road against Sacramento (27-50) after Marc Gasol (15p-10r) produced a late block to secure the win.

Dallas (38-39) kept alive their fading play-off hopes with a 97-91 victory against Portland (33-44), who launched a late fightback before falling short. The Mavericks were led by Chris Kaman’s double-double of 26 points and 11 rebounds while Will Barton had a 22p-13r double-double for the Trail Blazers, who are already out of post-season contention following EIGHT straight defeats. Anthony Davis led the New Orleans Hornets (27-50) to a 95-92 win in Phoenix (23-54) with a 20 point haul.

Detroit (26-52) snapped an 18-game losing streak against the Chicago Bulls (42-34) with a 99-85 victory despite Carlos Boozer‘s 21p-10r double-double. The Bulls‘ defeat handed the Central Division title to the Indiana Pacers. Cleveland (24-52) used a strong final quarter to defeat Orlando Magic (19-59) 91-85 while the return of Paul Pierce inspired a 107-96 win for Boston (40-37) over the Washington Wizards (29-48).

Game Night! ft. OKC @ Memphis

STUNNING COMEBACK KEEPS STREAK GOING; MEMPHIS EDGE OUT OKC & LOPEZ LEADS NETS TO WIN ON ESPN

Memphis Grizzlies (46-21) kept up their chances of catching OKC (50-19) after beating their Western rivals 90-89 in an overtime battle. The home side looked in control during the first half before the Thunder fought back to take the lead and it needed a late triple from to force the game beyond regulation.

During the extra period, it was the visitors who edged ahead once more before Marc Gasol snatched the victory with the tip-in just before the final buzzer. The Spaniard and All-Star team-mate Zach Randolph combined for 29 points and 33 rebounds in the win with Mike Conley top scoring with 24 points while Kevin Durant had a game-high 32.

Conley: “It’s always good to win a game like that especially against one of the best teams in the league! This says a lot about our confidence as a team; believing we can win regardless.”

Miami Heat (53-14) pulled off an unbelievable comeback from 27 points down to take their win streak to 24 games after beating Cleveland (22-46) 98-95. LeBron James continues to demonstrate his MVP potential with a vital triple-double with 25 points, 12 rebounds and ten assists and had a personal 8-0 run to give Miami the lead at the start of the fourth while Mario Chalmers contributed a further 17 points as the visitors netted TWELVE triples during the win.

The Cavs (still without Kyrie Irving) used a 19-0 run in the second quarter to assert their authority and opened up a commanding lead at 67-40 in the third quarter. Shane Battier nailed two three’s in the middle of a 15-1 burst before Daniel Gibson‘s late triple gave the hosts a 77-68 lead going into the fourth,where Miami took over. However, despite the nine-point lead being reversed, the home side kept battling and closed to within a point in the final minute after seven unanswered points before James sunk two crucial free throws and Miami held on.

LeBron: “It was one of the best comebacks I’ve been a part of. The streak wasn’t on my mind but getting blown out was!”

The New York Knicks (40-26) closed in on second place in the East after a comfortable 106-94 win at home to Orlando (18-51) as Carmelo Anthony added 21 points and 8 rebounds on his return to the team. Anthony Davis tipped in the game winner in New Orleans as the Hornets (23-46) recorded a narrow 87-86 victory over the Boston Celtics (36-31) despite a 28 point haul from Paul Pierce. Brook Lopez led Brooklyn (40-28) to a 113-96 win over Dallas (32-36) after an impressive 38 points and 11 rebounds while Deron Williams added 31 in the ESPN fixture and Reggie Evans pulled down 22 boards.

San Antonio (52-16) used a dominant second quarter display to propel them to a 104-93 success at home to the Golden State Warriors (39-31) with Tim Duncan stepping up with 25 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. LA Clippers (47-22) eased to a 101-72 victory against Philadelphia (26-41) while Washington (24-43) collected an 88-79 win on the road against the Phoenix Suns (23-46).

Houston Rockets (37-31) earned a vital win in a play-off battle at home to Utah Jazz (34-34) with James Harden‘s 29 points leading the way. Atlanta Hawks (38-30) were guided to a 98-90 win against the Milwaukee Bucks (34-33) by Jeff Teague‘s double-double of 27 points and 11 assists. In the final game, the Charlotte Bobcats (16-52) defeated the Toronto Raptors (26-42) 107-101 for their second win in a row.

Check-out highlights of Miami‘s historic win in Cleveland (NBA):

Game Night! ft. Oklahoma @ San Antonio

SPURS STAY TOP OF THE WEST; KNICKS MAULED ON MELO’S RETURN & THE SIXERS END LOSING RUN

San Antonio (49-15) remained in top spot in the Western conference after a strong second quarter spell lifted them to a 105-93 over Oklahoma City Thunder (47-17). Tiago Splitter had 21 points on 9-11 from the field whilst grabbing 10 boards with Kawhi Leonard (17p) and Danny Green (16p) adding valuable contributions. Kevin Durant had a game-high 26 points for the Thunder while Russell Westbrook had 25 despite putting up 14 extra shots.

A 16-2 run had put the visitors in control early on as they led 32-22 at the end of the first. The advantage peaked at 13 points and Gregg Popovich soon called a time-out with his side down 40-29 and the game changed. The Spurs compiled a 20-4 run to take the lead with Green nailing two triples and Leonard adding nine points including a spectacular play to give the home side a 53-46 advantage at the break.

Westbrook had 11 second half points which helped bring OKC within a single point on the back of a 9-1 run but the Spurs regained the control and didn’t let their opponents get close again for the rest of the game. Manu Ginobili finished the third with five points as the Western leaders took an 83-74 advantage into the final period. The game was effectively sealed at the start of the fourth as the Spurs went 9-0 in the first three minutes. Green netted another triple late on to finish 4-4 from 3-PT range.

Golden State (36-29) inflicted a painful 92-63 loss on the New York Knicks (38-23) after another strong showing from Steph Curry. The Warriors guard had 26 points in the victory while Klay Thompson added 23 as the duo went 10-17 from downtown with David Lee adding 21 points, ten rebounds and EIGHT assists. Carmelo Anthony added 14 points and 10 rebounds on his return but the Knicks were restricted to just 27% shooting from the field. Utah Jazz (33-31) eased to a 103-90 win over the Detroit Pistons (23-43) despite a third quarter scare as they moved back level with the Lakers in 8th spot in the West.

Denver (43-22) claimed their NINTH straight win after beating the Phoenix Suns (22-42) 108-93 on the road with Kosta Koufos leading the way with a 22-10 double-double.  The game was evenly poised before the Nuggets stormed clear in the final quarter. Philadelphia 76ers (24-39) ended their losing streak with a 106-97 home win against the Brooklyn Nets (37-27) as Spencer Hawes (24p/10r) and Jrue Holiday (15p/11a) starred with double-doubles.

The night was a momentous one for Deron Williams as he completed an NBA milestone:

Here’s the top play of the day featuring Kawhi Leonard (NBA):

Game Night! ft. Chicago @ LA Lakers

LAKERS INTO 8TH SPOT; HEAT STREAK AT 18 AND THUNDER CLOSE IN ON SPURS

The Los Angeles Lakers (33-31) moved into the play-off positions courtesy of a 90-81 home win against the Chicago Bulls (35-28) to take their current win streak to three games. Kobe Bryant didn’t replicate the 40+ point performances in his last two outings but still led his side with 19 points and 9 assists while Dwight Howard had a big impact with 21 rebounds complementing 16 points. Chicago have now won just four of their last TEN and face pressure from Atlanta and Boston below them in the Eastern standings as they compete for home advantage. Joakim Noah led the Bulls in this defeat with an 18p/17r double-double although Nate Robinson took the scoring honours with an extra point.

OKC Thunder (47-16) moved to within a game of Western conference leaders, San Antonio, after recording their 5th win in a row after beating the Boston Celtics (34-28) 91-79 in the first game of the NBA double-header on Sky Sports in the UK. Kevin Durant top scored with 23 points as Oklahoma broke clear in the fourth to tie the series at 1-1 with the Celtics, who were led by Paul Pierce’s 20 points.

Miami Heat (47-14) took their franchise-record win streak to 18 games after comfortably defeating conference rivals Indiana Pacers (39-24) 105-90. Chalmers was ‘Super Mario’ for the night with a game-high 26 points with Chris Bosh (24p) and Dwyane Wade (23p/6st) adding valuable support while LeBron James chipped in with 13 points, six rebounds and SEVEN assists on a ‘quiet night’.

LA Clippers (45-20) powered past Detroit (23-42) in a 129-97 victory to reclaim third spot in the Western conference. The home side shot an impressive 62% from the field as Blake Griffin led the way with 22 points and Chris Paul had 20 points and dished out 14 assists. Jose Calderon top scored for the Pistons with an 18 point haul as the visitors fell to a fifth straight loss. Meanwhile Dallas (29-33) handed out a 100-77 beating on the Minnesota Timberwolves (21-39) on the road with Vince Carter leading the Mavericks with 22 points.

Milwaukee Bucks (32-29) maintained 8th spot in the East with a narrow 115-113 win on the road against the Sacramento Kings (22-43). The visitors survived a fourth quarter comeback from the Kings and Monta Ellis (29p) and Brandon Jennings sealed the win from the line. New Orleans (22-43) enjoyed a tense 98-96 win over the Portland Trail Blazers (29-33) with Ryan Andersen securing the victory late on with a three point play.

Despite the absences of Rudy Gay and Andrea Bargnani, the Toronto Raptors (25-39) came through against the Cleveland Cavaliers (21-42) 100-96 although they are 8.5 games behind the play-off spots. Amir Johnson was the star with 17 points and 16 rebounds while the Cavs were left worrying over the injury suffered by Kyrie Irving as he left the game in the third. Orlando Magic (18-46) inflcited a fifth straight loss on the Philadelphia 76ers (23-39) as Jameer Nelson starred with 24 points and 10 assists in the 99-91 home win.

Check-out this top dunk from DeAndre Jordan for the Clippers: (NBA)