NEXT GAME: Monday, May 5
TIME: 8:30 P.M. CDT
7-for-7 Three-point shooting numbers for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined, as the Thunder shot 57.9 percent from behind the arc
8-for-9 Free throw shooting numbers for Caron Butler, who repeatedly attacked en route to 15 points
16 Assists for Russell Westbrook, a Thunder playoff record, in addition to 27 points and ten rebounds for just the eighth triple-double in a Game 7 in NBA history
19-8 The Thunder’s advantage in fast break points in quarters two through four tonight
33 Points for Kevin Durant on 12-for-18 shooting in addition to eight rebounds and two assists
60.9 Shooting percentage for the Thudner on the night thanks to 22 assists
67-45 The scoring differential in the Thunder’s favor during the second and third quarters
May 3rd, 2014
Russell Westbrook dribbled just above the three-point arc, assessing the situation in front of him. Pointing to teammates to get into position, Westbrook directed traffic. In an instant, the pick-and-roll he designed turned into a kick-back pass to Kevin Durant for a wide-open three-pointer, causing the Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd to erupt.
That was just one play of many in the Thunder’s 120-109 series clinching Game 7 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night, as Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club sealed a win to advance to the second round. The Thunder shot a blistering 60.9 percent from the field, including 11-for-19 from the three-point line, as its defense held Memphis to just 44.6 percent shooting.
Westbrook was the catalyst for it all, finishing with 27 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds for just the eighth Game 7 triple-double in history. In fact, Westbrook became only the second player to accomplish that feat twice in his career with Saturday’s masterful performance.
“Russell loves Game 7’s,” Brooks said with a wry smile.
“It was just trying to find a balance between getting my teammates the ball and staying aggressive,” Westbrook said. “My teammates have done a great job spacing out and making shots, which makes it easy for me to see where my reads are and I’m able to get them shots.”
The outcome of this one wasn’t in hand until the fourth quarter, however, as the Grizzlies built an 11-point lead in the first quarter. Without Zach Randolph, who missed Game 7 due to suspension, Memphis drastically changed its style from a bruising, big lineup to a quicker squad that relied on perimeter shooting and floor spacing.
Veterans like Derek Fisher and Kendrick Perkins helped the Thunder prepare for whatever lineup changes the Grizzlies had in store. After a feeling out period in the first two quarters, the Thunder problem-solved together, and made crucial 10-0 and 13-3 runs in the second and third quarters to take control of the game, eventually building a 22-point lead.
“That was the key to kind of getting control of this game,” Fisher said. “We talked about it. Kendrick Perkins and I were talking earlier today, depending on who they start, you’re going to have to find their guys in different places now.”
“They came out playing faster, more in the open floor and in more space,” Fisher continued. “It took us a while to catch up, but we definitely showed some character and some composure figuring out a way to still win this game.”
The mental toughness the Thunder displayed stemmed from its leaders. While Westbrook was precise, fellow perennial All-Star Kevin Durant was equally as efficient and explosive. The dynamic scorer pitched in 33 points on 12-for-18 shooting, but he also snagged eight rebounds and helped set the tone with his defensive intensity on the perimeter from the opening tip and during the course of the night. Once the Thunder settled in, its defense took hold and helped generate offense, as Brooks’ club racked up 19 fast break points in the final three quarters alone.
“(Durant) was defending and he was rebounding,” Brooks said. “He’s one of the best players on the planet. He’s going to continue to help us win games and move us forward, not only with his shot-making, but his playmaking.”
It was a tough, grind-it-out series that featured a record-setting four consecutive overtime games, but with perseverance and steadiness, the Thunder prevailed against a gritty Memphis Grizzlies team. In just 48 hours, the Thunder will host Game 1 of its second round series, meaning there will be a quick turnaround to prepare for its next opponent. Regardless, the entire organization is confident in the group because of what Brooks saw out of his players and staff during the past two weeks as the Thunder battled their way back from a 3-2 series deficit into a 4-3 series win.
“I know that they’re going to keep fighting,” Brooks said. “I know that we have a resilient group that loves to compete. We don’t like to lose. We always try to figure out ways to get better. We’re not mistake-free, but our effort is right on. I love coaching this team because of that.”
There were two crucial spurts in this one, the first coming in the second quarter, with the Thunder trailing by ten. It was 44-34 Grizzlies with 8:56 remaining in the half, when Russell Westbrook hit Kevin Durant for two jumpers with a pair of Reggie Jackson free throws sandwiched in between. Caron Butler was then fouled on a three-pointer and made two free throws, before he found Westbrook for a transition layup to tie the game at 44 with 5:00 left in the half. During the 10-0 run, the Thunder forced seven straight missed shots and two turnovers.
The second burst came at the beginning of the second half, when the Thunder jumped out to a 13-3 run over a three-minute span to break the game open. The Thunder led 65-60 with 10:59 left in the third quarter, but after back-to-back three-pointers from Butler and Durant set up by Westbrook passes, the Thunder’s lead jumped to 71-60. Three Grizzlies free throws would send it back to single digits, but Westbrook hit a pull-up jumper, Butler made a steal that led to a Serge Ibaka dunk and then Westbrook hit Durant for another three-pointer to make it 78-63 Thunder with 8:14 left in the third quarter. The Grizzlies would never get closer than nine points the rest of the way.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
The Thunder immediately goes into the post with Mike Miller guarding Serge Ibaka, getting a quick post up and a bucket. Kevin Durant gets back in transition and blocks a shot, stopping a potential fast break. Ibaka and Steven Adams tip out an offensive rebound, which Russell Westbrook tracks down. Durant slaps the ball off a Grizzlies’ player’s leg, regaining possession for the Thunder. Westbrook recovers behind the play to make a spectacular basket-saving block. Ibaka helps over the top to tip an entry pass, starting a Thunder transition opportunity.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Nice help side recovery by Durant and Ibaka to shut off a driving lane and force a tough miss. Incredible decision making in the lane by Westbrook to drive and dish after receiving a pass. Unbelievable job by Westbrook to put his men in position, then set them play in motion to get Durant an open three. Adams stands tall in the pant and forces Tony Allen into a travel. Incredible hustle by Adams on the offensive glass to get a put-back. Quick hands by Fisher, Caron Butler and Durant forces a turnover and run out.
“We were just playing our game. Coach told us that regardless of who they put on the floor, we have to come out and play Thunder Basketball. Everybody did a great job of coming in, doing their role and knocking shots down.” – forward Kevin Durant