NEXT GAME: Saturday, May 3
TIME: 7:00 P.M. CDT
5 Blocks for Steven Adams, in addition to two points and three rebounds in 20 minutes
6-for-9 Shooting numbers for Reggie Jackson, including 4-for-5 from three-point range en route to 16 points
10 Turnovers forced by the Thunder, leading to 17 points
17-5 The Thunder's advantage in fast break points
36 Points for Kevin Durant on 11-for-23 shooting, including 14-for-15 from the free throw line, where the Thunder went 23-for-25 as a team
47-36 The Thunder's rebounding advantage on the night, including ten by Kevin Durant and seven each from Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins
49.3-37.3 The differential in shooting percentages in the Thunder's favor
May 1st, 2014
MEMPHIS – From the opening tip, the mentality was clear. There was a firm resolve in the Thunder's eyes and a bubbling energy awaiting under the surface. With its backs against the wall, the Thunder showed its resilience, mental toughness and determination by taking Game 6 over the Memphis Grizzlies 104-84.
In Thursday night's victory, which tied the best-of-seven first round series at 3-3, the Thunder put on a dominating performance, holding the Grizzlies to just 37.3 percent shooting while hitting 49.3 percent of its own shots. By aggressive attacking the ball in the pick-and-roll and preventing driving lanes, Head Coach Scott Brooks' club forced Memphis into difficult perimeter jumpers or turnovers. The Thunder turned its defensive stops into transition scoring opportunities, finishing with 17 points off turnovers and 17 fast break points, while racking up a 47-36 rebounding advantage.
"That was 48 minutes of possession-by-possession defensive mentality type-game," Brooks said. "That's what we wanted to have happen going into this game. We knew we were playing in a tough place to play against a very good team." "That was the only focus for tonight's game, to give your teammate everything you have," Brooks continued. "And we'll live with the results."
It was a team effort for sure, as players stepped up from all parts of the roster. Caron Butler, who was inserted into the starting lineup, scored seven points and dished out three crucial assists. Steven Adams played 20 minutes and blocked five shots, while Reggie Jackson provided an efficient touch from the perimeter, scoring 16 points on 4-for-5 three-point shooting. Regardless of who was on the floor, every man played with a sense that each possession was the most important one of the night.
"Our guys did a great job of just maintaining composure," Brooks said. "That's what we did tonight. We locked in and maintained our gameplan of staying focused and staying in the moment of playing possession by possession."
"We're going to need everybody to stay ready," forward Kevin Durant said. "Anyone can be a component in the game and no matter who we start, the guys coming in from the bench have to be ready. We have a lot of veterans in this group who are willing to sacrifice minutes and still come in and contribute to the team."
The men in the paint did their jobs once again for the Thunder, as Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins combined for 14 points, 14 rebounds, a steal and four blocks on an efficient 6-for-10 shooting. The Thunder was led, however, by its two dynamic playmakers in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who finished with 36 and 25 points respectively.
The duo added 19 rebounds and seven assists combined, as they both aggressively attacked the paint to create scoring opportunities for themselves and their teammates. An integral product of their north-south attacking style was their ability to get to the free throw line, as the Thunder hit 23-of-25 attempts, with 20 of the makes coming from Durant and Westbrook. The Thunder's offense as a whole flowed because of the intelligent play of its lead duo, and was aided by the spacing and selflessness of the rest of the squad, particularly veterans like Nick Collison and Derek Fisher.
"(Durant and Westbrook) deserve a lot of credit," Collison said. "They played the right way. They didn't force the issue. They made the correct pass. The ball usually comes back to you in a better situation, with more space and an easier decision to make. That's the way we have to continue to play. We're at our best when we get into offense quickly, get to our spots, do what we're supposed to do and the ball will decide where the shot is."
"(We got) everything we needed," Butler said of Durant and Westbrook's contributions. "It was one of the biggest games of the season, to keep our season and our dream alive. Those guys were dialed in and they were ready for the moment. Now that this game is over, we have to get prepared for the next challenge because it's going to be a dog fight."
Even in the postgame locker room, the Thunder's focus had immediately shifted from its Game 6 win into the ensuing battle it will face in Game 7 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Saturday night's contest will determine which team moves on to the second round, and the Thunder knows that it will have to bring every ounce of energy, effort intensity and teamwork that it displayed tonight, and then some, in order to win the game and advance.
"It's going to be loud and crazy in there, but we still have to play the same type of fearless approach on the defensive end that creates offensive opportunities for us," Brooks said.
"This is Game 7," Durant said. "And I'm looking forward to it."
The Thunder jumped out to a sizable lead in the first quarter, but the Grizzlies pulled to within five points at 42-37 with 3:17 remaining in the first half. Over the next three minutes, Head Coach Scott Brooks' club went on a 14-2 run that broke the game open, and Memphis never seriously challenged the Thunder again.
The burst started with expert ball movement in the halfcourt, with the play resulting in a Reggie Jackson three-pointer off a Caron Butler assist. Serge Ibaka then drew a foul underneath the basket to earn two free throws before a Kevin Durant steal and slick bounce pass ended in a Russell Westbrook slam dunk.
The Grizzlies called timeout and made two free throws afterwards, but a Westbrook dish to Butler for three and a Westbrook steal and put-back dunk continued the run. After a strong defensive rebound, Ibaka found himself on the receiving end of a Butler pass, and nailed a jumper to make it 56-39 with 55 seconds left in the half.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Strong box out on the offensive boards by Kendrick Perkins to draw a foul on his man. Solid pick-and-roll defense by Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka forces a Memphis turnover. Nice relocation by Caron Butler and good vision by Kevin Durant to hit him with a lob pass. Nick Collison tips a loose defensive rebound to Durant to start a fast break chance. Great hustle on the boards by Steven Adams and Reggie Jackson to fight for rebounds. Durant does an incredible job of fronting Marc Gasol in the post to make a steal, then fires a bounce pass down court for a Westbrook dunk.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Westbrook and Durant huddle up the team to make sure everyone calms down after an emotional stretch. Excellent cross-court pass by Westbrook, then a wonderful pump fake by Ibaka to get his man in the air for a drive to the rim. Slick bounce pass in transition by Westbrook to find Durant to draw a foul. Strong post defense by Perkins forces a Zach Randolph miss. Butler dives on the floor to grab a loose ball and call timeout. Westbrook turns his head to get inside position and swats away a lob pass. Strong screen by Adams in the lane to free up a driving lane.
"We did a really great job of just being calm. We did a great job of coming in and being cool, calm and collected as a unit. For 48 minutes we never took a long dip, we just kind of went up the hill and made runs." – guard Russell Westbrook