Game Recap - Playoffs Round 2 Game 7 vs Memphis Grizzlies

Playoffs Game Recap
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2 Days til Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.

3 Shots blocked by Kevin Durant, easily overlooked in 39-point performance.

5 Times the game was tied.

7:39 Time left in fourth quarter when Russell Westbrook completed his triple-double game.

11 Number of Thunder players to score in Game 7.

12 Rebounds by Nick Collison, four of which were offensive boards.

17 Points by James Harden off the bench.

20 Thunder’s biggest lead in Game 7. 

33 Minutes played by Nick Collison.

42 Points by the Thunder bench.

GAME 1 Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals will be played Tuesday in Dallas. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. on ESPN and the Thunder Radio Network.  

“Dallas presents a lot of problems,” Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said. “We are going to enjoy this one for a few hours and then we will have to get back and look for ways to beat Dallas. We know we have to beat them at their place. We are excited about the opportunity.”


THE GAME WAS OVER WHEN: Kevin Durant slammed home an alley-oop pass from Russell Westbrook with 6 minutes, 39 seconds remaining in the third quarter, putting the Thunder up 52-46.  

That may be a reach, given how many times the Grizzlies came back from double-digit deficits in the series. But the emphatic dunk was more symbolic, re-engaged the sold-out crowd and set the stage for a 14-5 run that the Grizzlies simply could not answer.  

The Thunder led 42-34 at halftime, but Memphis quickly cut the lead to four and was turning the momentum in its favor. Two free throws by Zach Randolph had pulled the Grizzlies within 50-46, but the Thunder struck back just 14 seconds on a play that Head Coach Scott Brooks had once banned – the alley-oop.  

Westbrook, dribbling toward to the top of the key, made eye contact with Durant and the two connected on an alley-oop dunk that energized the crowd and sent the Thunder on a 14-5 run and a 66-51 lead.

The run was a Durant highlight show – on both ends of the court. He scored from 3-point range, in the lane and at the line, but his defensive play with Grizzlies guard Mike Conley on a fast break is one for the “how-to-play-defense” book.

  With Conley sprinting toward the rim, Durant angled his body to get in front of Conley and went straight up, forcing Conley to miss the shot. Nick Collison grabbed the rebound and sent the Thunder racing the other way. Durant, fittingly, drilled a 3-pointer on the play and added a free throw on a technical foul called on Grizzlies Coach Lionel Hollins to make it 66-51, Thunder.

TURNING POINTS: Nick Collison enters the game with 5:53 to play in the first quarter and the Thunder down, 13-8. Collison makes an immediate impact on both ends of the court, battling Zach Randolph for every inch of space under the basket and following up missed shots. Collison has two blocks, four rebounds and two points as the Thunder closes the quarter on a 13-4 run to lead at the end of one, 21-17. After the game, during his post-game Q & A with the media, Kevin Durant called Collison “the best player on the court tonight. He did everything.” … Early in the second quarter, with the Thunder leading 26-23, the Grizzlies are on a fast break and guard Greivis Vasquez attempts an alley-oop pass to forward Sam Young. The ball is too high and the Grizzlies turn it over. The Thunder responds with a 14-6 run to go up 40-29. … The alley-oop dunk between Durant and Russell Westbrook as described above, triggering a 14-5 run.

PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON'T SHOW: Russell Westbrook chasing a high rebound off his missed shot, grabbing the ball and going right back up for a basket. … Thabo Sefolosha wrestling a rebound away from Zach Randolph. … Kevin Durant catching the ball, using a pump fake to get Tony Allen in the air, stepping to the side and nailing a jumper. … Nick Collison refusing to give Randolph his spot and forcing the Grizzlies’ big man to miss at one end, then racing down court for a put-back basket. … Collison, battling Randolph on a Grizzlies fast break, spins off Randolph to block the shot of Mike Conley. Collison follows that with another block of Conley on the inbounds pass, recovers the ball and sends the Thunder flying the other way for a Westbrook layin. … The patience of James Harden with the ball. With the 24-second clock winding down, Harden draws defenders to him on a drive to the basket and delivers a pass to Nazr Mohammed for an easy basket high off the glass. … Westbrook sprinting on a fast break with Durant to his left, driving through the lane and faking Conley to go one way while hitting Durant on the wing for a wide open 3 and 31-23 lead. … Collison steps in to take -- and draw -- a charge on Randolph on the next possession. Thunder ball. … Thabo Sefolosha stepping in front of a pass to Marc Gasol in the paint and heading down court with the steal for a dunk and a 46-38 lead. … Collison slipping past Randolph for a put-back of a Westbrook drive that rolls off the rim. … Harden coming up with a steal and leading a Thunder fast break with Kendrick Perkins to his left and Durant trailing. Harden drives hard to the lane to draw defenders, fakes a pass to Perkins and throws behind to Durant, who drains a 3-pointer for a 57-49 lead. … Harden, dribbling between his legs with O.J. Mayo on him, rises for a 3-pointer and a 72-58 lead after three quarters. … Nazr Mohammed shows his ability to drive the lane and change hands for a finger-roll at the rim and 78-62 lead. … Durant blocking the shot of Shane Battier with 6:01 to play and the Thunder holding an 84-69 lead. … Collison beating two Grizzlies to the board for an offensive rebound of a Durant miss. Collison is fouled, hits both free throws and the Thunder leads, 88-73 lead.

STATS WORTH REPEATING: 14-14-10: The points-assists-rebounds totals for Thunder guard Russell Westbrook. It was the first triple-double performance by a player in a Game 7 since 1992 (Scottie Pippen, Chicago Bulls). … 44-34: The rebound total, favoring the Thunder. Memphis Coach Lionel Hollins said that was a big difference in the game, singling out the six offensive rebounds by Westbrook. … 39: Points scored by Kevin Durant. After scoring only 11 in Game 6, both Brooks and Hollins knew Durant would respond. The Thunder forward  shot 13-for-25 from the field (4-for-9 from 3-point range) and 9-for-9 from the line. He also had nine rebounds and three blocked shots.

THIS AND THAT: The Grizzlies opened the game with the same starting lineup they used in Game 6 in Memphis: center Marc Gasol, power forward Zach Randolph and guards O.J. Mayo, Tony Allen and Mike Conley. … Before the game, Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks talked about wanting to get forward Kevin Durant going early, giving him the ball in favorable spots. On the first possession, won on the opening jump ball, Durant set a screen to free Thabo Sefolosha for a wide-open jumper and the game’s first two points. Durant made his first shot 4:36 into the game.  He was just getting started. … Both the Thunder (21 points) and the Grizzlies (17) scored the same number of points in the first and second quarters. … Thunder, up 72-58 after three quarters, open the fourth facing a full-court press by the Grizzlies that sees Nick Collison handling the ball and pressure. Once Collison gets across the half-court line, he finds Eric Maynor, who dribbles to the top foul line and pops a 15-footer. Collison continues his path toward the rim and taps in the put back.

NICE TOUCH: Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks pulled (in order) Kevin Durant, Kendrick Perkins, Russell Westbrook, Nick Collison and James Harden with 1 minute, 50 seconds remaining in the game, giving the 18,203 fans decked in free blue Thunder T-shirts, courtesy of MidFirst Bank, a chance to celebrate the players’ efforts.

LAST WORD I: “It feels great. All the hard work we put in is paying off. We are not done yet; we still have more games to play. We will enjoy this tonight and get ready for Dallas.” – Thunder guard James Harden after his 17-point, four-rebound, four-steal performance.

LAST WORD II: "He saved himself for Sunday. He had some nice looks and he missed them. I can’t say we can take credit for that. … They have a nice, young team, like we do. It’s going to be a dog fight on Sunday.” – Grizzlies Coach Lionel Hollins, talking about Thunder forward Kevin Durant and his 3-for-14 shooting performance.

LAST WORD III: “(James) Harden and (Nick) Collison were the keys, I thought, throughout the series. When we were able to control them a little bit, we had success. When we didn’t, Oklahoma City had success. It was the key again tonight.” – Grizzlies Coach Lionel Hollins.

-- Ron Matthews, THUNDER.NBA.COM