Thunder Wins Game 7, Advances to Conference Finals

Thursday, May 26th 2011, 12:24 pm
By: News On 6

Originally Published: May 15, 2011 5:8 PM CDT

Corey DeMoss
Oklahoma Sports Staff Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY – When the lights were at their brightest Sunday, the Oklahoma City Thunder turned in its most impressive performance of the playoffs in a 105-90 Game 7 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies to advance to the Western Conference Finals.

All of the Thunder’s key players were at the top of their games. Kevin Durant led all scorers with 39 points, Russell Westbrook recorded a triple-double, James Harden hit four 3-pointers, and Nick Collison shut down Zach Randolph.

The Thunder led for most of the game, but had let big leads slip away several times earlier in the series. They made sure history did not repeat itself in Game 7.

Oklahoma City led by eight at halftime, and the Grizzlies cut that lead to four multiple times in the third quarter. But the Thunder responded every time, and caught fire at the end of the frame.

Durant and Harden combined to make three consecutive 3-pointers to spark a 14-2 run midway through the quarter that put Oklahoma City up by 15 points, and the Thunder never looked back.

OKC continued to build on its lead throughout the fourth quarter, to the point that it was able to bench all of its starters for the final minutes. That resulted in a total of 11 players registering points and the team as a whole shooting 48 percent from the field.

Durant’s 39 points came after his worst offensive performance of the season in Game 6, in which he scored just 11 points on 3-of-14 shooting. But he played with more aggression and worked harder to get open, resulting in 25 total shots and nine free-throw attempts.

"I guess I can say it now, but he stunk the last game," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. "But I knew he'd come back and have a fantastic game."

Westbrook, who has widely been criticized this postseason for not getting his teammates involved in the offense, took only 12 shots and scored 14 points to go along with 10 rebounds and 14 assists. He became the first player since Scottie Pippen in 1992 to record a triple-double in a playoff Game 7.

Harden provided a much-needed scoring boost off the bench, and he filled up the state sheet. He scored 17 points and had four rebounds, three assists, four steals and a block. Twelve of his points came in the second half thanks to 4-of-6 shooting from behind the 3-point line.

While Durant and Westbrook likely will get most of the headlines, Nick Collison was the quiet hero of Game 7. His shutdown defense held Zach Randolph - Memphis' leading scorer - to only six points in the first half and 6-of-15 shooting on the night. Collison also finished with eight points, a game-high 12 rebounds, and a +/- rating of +26 in 33 minutes on the floor.

"I think Nick was probably the best player on the floor for us tonight," Durant said.

The Thunder now will move on to the Western Conference Finals, where it will face the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks have been off for an entire week after sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in four games.

The Thunder and Mavericks will face off in Game 1 at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Dallas. The teams will return to Oklahoma City for Game 3 on May 21 and Game 4 on May 23. Tickets for the OKC home games will go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday.