Thunder, Clippers book second-round showdown
The Oklahoma City Thunder overpowered the Memphis Grizzlies 120-109 to line up a clash with the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round of the NBA playoffs.
Russell Westbrook notched his second triple-double of the series with 27 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds, and Kevin Durant scored a game-high 33 points for the Thunder -- who won the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series four games to three.
The Clippers advanced with a 126-121 game-seven triumph over the Golden State Warriors in Los Angeles.
Westbrook joined Rajon Rondo as the only players in NBA history to record triple-doubles in two game sevens. His first also came against Memphis in 2011.
The Grizzlies, missing the suspended Zach Randolph and with Mike Conley nursing a sore hamstring, gave it all they had, taking a 36-27 lead after the first quarter and leading by as many as 11 in the second period before the Thunder inexorably asserted themselves.
Durant, expected to be named the NBA Most Valuable Player next week, was a perfect five-for-five from three point range and pulled down eight rebounds in the victory.
"I was finally able to get out of my own way tonight," said Durant, who admitted he'd been stung by critical press after struggling offensively earlier in the series. "I was thinking too much, worried about what you guys (the media) were saying about me. I just relaxed and played my game. You guys motivated me a little, even though I told you you didn't."
Marc Gasol led Memphis with 24 points and six assists and Conley battled through his injury to score 20 points with nine assists.
Both added four steals, but the Grizzlies just couldn't stop the Thunder.
Leading by three points at halftime, the Thunder opened the second half with a 17-5 scoring run to take control of the contest. The surge included three three-pointers -- two from Durant and one from Caron Butler.
Oklahoma City connected on 13 of 17 shots from the field in the third quarter. The Thunder led by as many as 16 before taking a 93-81 lead into the fourth, and the depleted Grizzlies never threatened in the final period.
The Grizzlies had led the series 3-2, but missed their chance to advance when they dropped game six in Memphis. Randolph, who led the Grizzlies in scoring with 18.9 points per game in the series, was suspended for game seven after punching Thunder rookie Steven Adams late in Thursday’s loss.
The Thunder will host game one of the second-round series against the Clippers on Monday.
The Clippers kept their post-season push going despite the controversy surrounding owner Donald Sterling.
Sterling was banned for life from NBA activities and fined $2.5 million by league commissioner Adam Silver after racially charged remarks he made in a private conversation became public.
The league is also taking steps to force him to sell the club.
Saturday's games were among a record five game sevens in the opening round of the playoffs.
The total already matches the NBA record for the most seventh games in all rounds in any playoff year.