The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

May 16, 2013

Grizzlies eliminate Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Memphis Grizzlies advanced to the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 88-84 on Wednesday night.

Zach Randolph had 28 points and 14 rebounds, Mike Conley added 13 points and 11 assists for Memphis, the fifth seed.

Kevin Durant missed a 16-foot jumper from the left wing to tie it with 6 seconds left, finishing off a miserable shooting night for the three-time NBA scoring champion.

Durant ended up with 21 points on 5-for-21 shooting, the third-worst performance of his playoff career. The Thunder, who made it to the NBA Finals last season, were eliminated in five games. The top seed in the West went 2-6 after All-Star guard Russell Westbrook  went out with a knee injury that required surgery.

Serge Ibaka had 17 points and eight rebounds before fouling out with 1:26 to play during a desperation comeback try for the Thunder.

Oklahoma City trailed by 12 with three minutes left before going on a 16-6 rally, with Reggie Jackson’s 3-pointer cutting the deficit to 86-84 with 14.3 seconds remaining.

Randolph missed both free throws with 11.3 seconds on the clock to give the Thunder one last chance to save their season. Durant got the ball beyond the 3-point line on the left wing and navigated around Tony Allen before missing the jumper.

Allen then made two free throws to close it out.

After letting a 14-point lead get trimmed to two, the Grizzlies regained control with a 12-2 run to start the fourth quarter. It featured seven points from Randolph — five from the foul line — to go up 76-64 with 6:03 remaining.

It was just a big enough cushion to finish off a series of games that all came down to the wire. The first three games featured a go-ahead basket in the final two minutes, and Game 4 went to overtime. Memphis won the final four games.

The Thunder fell to 1-4 in elimination games over the past four seasons. Two of Durant’s worst performances came in those games, with a 5-for-23 outing against the Lakers in Game 6 of the 2010 first-round. His worst shooting performance in the postseason was against the Grizzlies in Game 6 of the 2011 West semifinals.

Oklahoma City got a breath of life with a bizarre play midway through the third quarter. Derek Fisher’s missed 3-pointer turned into a four-point possession. Allen, who was on the bench, waved his arms to try and distract Fisher on his shot and a shirt slipped out of his hands and onto the floor near Fisher’s feet.

Referee Marc Davis ruled that Fisher’s 3-pointer should count, and Durant hit the free throw resulting from a technical against Allen to get the Thunder within 60-53. Oklahoma City got as close as 64-62 by the end of the quarter, after Fisher’s 3-pointer and a layup by Thabo Sefolosha.

But the Thunder missed eight of their first nine shots to start the fourth quarter to fall behind by 12, then couldn’t quite recover.

Memphis clamped down late in the first half, keeping Oklahoma City from making a field goal for the final six minutes while using a 14-3 push to establish a 50-38 lead at the break. The Thunder missed their final 11 shots of the half, with Durant getting a jumper sent back into his face by Gasol during the stretch.

The lead stretched to 60-46 after Tayshaun Prince’s driving left-handed slam over Reggie Jackson with 7:10 left in the third quarter, before Oklahoma City’s comeback began.

Oklahoma City opened the game on a 7-0 run, with Durant diving out of bounds to save a ball in the opening minutes. But it couldn’t sustain the momentum and allowed Memphis to pull even before the midway point of the first quarter.

The Grizzlies claimed the lead after Quincy Pondexter and Jerryd Bayless hit 3-pointers to start the second quarter, and they wouldn’t trail again.

Notes: NBA Commissioner David Stern attended the game and sat eight rows from the court. ... Sefolosha wore a brace on his sore left hand. He played just six minutes in the first half, then played the entire third quarter. ... It was the second straight game the Thunder scored the first seven points, only to give up the lead a few minutes later. ... Nick Collison picked up three fouls in the first 2:35 of the second quarter and got pulled. ... After the third-quarter buzzer, Bayless made a shot from three-quarters court that did not count.

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