The Woodward News

Sports

May 2, 2014

Thunder rout Memphis to even series

By Michael Kinney

CNHI News Service

MEMPHIS —  For the past two weeks Memphis has monopolized a section of the English dictionary. Words such as grit, heart, fight and determination have been used to describe its style of play.

With the Oklahoma City Thunder facing elimination Thursday, they decided to put on display worthy of a few adjectives of their own as they punished the Grizzlies 104-84 in a Game 6 victory at the Fed Ex Forum.

"I thought we did a great job of just being calm," Russell Westbrook said. "Great job of just coming in and being cool, calm and collective as a unit."

The win sets up a winner-take-all Game 7 Saturday in Oklahoma City. After playing subpar for much of the series, Thunder coach Scott Brooks is expecting a special atmosphere at Chesapeake Arena as the team tries to keep its season alive.

"It's a great place to play," Brooks said. "Loud City will be loud. We have a great building. Everyone knows that. Everyone that comes into our city knows we have the best building in the league. It means it's going to be loud and crazy in there. But we still have to play with the same type of fearless approach on the defensive end that creates offensive opportunities for us."

Oklahoma City jumped on top of Memphis early and carried a 21-point lead to start the fourth quarter. Normally that's a time Brooks will rest his starters. But he kept both Kevin Durant and Westbrook in the game to keep the door closed on the feisty Grizzlies.

Memphis was never able to get closer than 16 points as the Thunder cruised to the 20-point win.

"We played extremely hard to start the game," Durant said. "That's what we have to do in order to beat this team. We have to start the game off with a lot of intensity and that's what we did. We fed off it."

Durant led all scorers with 36 points on 11-for-23 shooting. He was 0 for 6 from behind the arc but made 10 of his 14 free throw attempts and pulled down 10 rebounds. Westbrook had a complete floor game with 25 points, nine boards, five assists, three steals and only four turnovers.  

"We got everything we need out of them," Caron Butler said. "This was one of the biggest games of the season to keep our season and dreams alive. Those guys were dialed in, they were ready and they were ready for the moment."

Reggie Jackson came off the bench to add 16 points while Steven Adams had five blocked shots.

Memphis had four players score in double figures. Marc Gasol led the charge with 17 points and Zach Randolph scored 16. However, the two big men combined for only 13 rebounds as the team was outrebounded 47-36.

"It's kind of embarrassing when you come out here with the fans chanting your name, screaming your name, and pulling for you," Tony Allen said. "We shot ourselves in the foot and now we have to go into a hostile environment. We pretty much have to show our heart again."

If Durant was bothered by any outside distractions, he didn't show it early on. He started the game 5 of 7 from the field and scored 10 points in the first seven minutes. He didn't attempt a single 3-pointer in the quarter.

In fact, the Thunder as a whole attempted only one shot from behind the arc the entire first quarter as they held a 25-17 advantage.

The Grizzlies began to double Durant in the second quarter to take the ball out of his hands. This allowed him to pass the ball out and for it to be swung around the perimeter for the open shot.

"I just tell myself to play hard and the game will tell me how to play," Durant said. "If I see a shot, shoot it. If I see a pass, pass it. Keep it as simple as possible. If I cloud with (other stuff), it makes me play on edge and dulls my instincts. So I just have to go out and play the game and do what the game tells me to do."

Gasol and Randolph kept Memphis close, but missed free throws. Stingy defense gave Oklahoma City a 56-41 halftime advantage.

With so much attention being focused on Durant, it opened up the lanes for Westbrook. Instead of settling for the long 3-pointers, he drove to the basket for layups or to dish it off.

Oklahoma City built its lead to 22 points and never let up. Memphis point guard Mike Conley sustained an injury to his hamstring and had to leave the game. But he said he plans to play in the Game 7.

Even though it's at their house, Durant knows the team can't rely on any home court advantage.

"We have to focus in from the beginning," Durant said. "We have to play as hard as well can to start the game knowing it's not a guarantee we will win because we're home. Of course we love the home court advantage, that's not guarantying us a W. We have to make the first hit and go from there."

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