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
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