Thunder Blows Double-Digit Lead, Grizzlies Force Game 7

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

Originally Published: May 13, 2011 11:2 PM CDT

Gerald Goodridge
Oklahoma Sports Staff Writer

MEMPHIS, Tennessee -- Oklahoma City held a 10-point lead at halftime Friday, but – thanks to an abysmal second half – was unable to close out the game and the series, losing to Memphis 95-83.

The loss sets up a winner-take-all Game 7 Sunday for the right to play in the Western Conference Finals.

Halfway through the second quarter, Oklahoma City led by just one point, but strung together an 8-2 run – capped off by back-to-back driving layups from Russell Westbrook – to take a 41-34 lead. Back-to-back 3-pointers from James Harden extended the lead to 13 points with just a minute left on the clock, but a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Shane Battier made it 54-44 heading into halftime.

But then the shots stopped falling for the Thunder, while Memphis made them count.

The Grizzlies opened up the second half on an 11-2 run – four from star Zach Randolph - to cut the lead to just one point four minutes into the second half. That run extended to 15-5, capped off by a layup from Randolph to tie the game 59-59 with 5:18 left to play in the quarter.

The initial run pushed Memphis to a massive third quarter, outscoring Oklahoma City 28-14 in the third frame, taking a 72-68 lead into the fourth quarter. However, it got worse for the Thunder in the closing 12 minutes.

Harden opened up the fourth quarter with a 16-foot jumper to close it to one possession, but Memphis quickly responded with a long two from Darrell Arthur. Nazr Mohammed hit the second of two free throws 30 seconds later to cut the deficit back to 74-71, but that’s when Randolph decided to make some space.

The ninth-year veteran knocked down back-to-back shots, which could have been three-in-a-row if it wasn’t for a layup from Nick Collison, to make it 80-73 Memphis with seven minutes left to play. OJ Mayo and Mike Conley contributed two each to make it 11 points with just two minutes left to play.

Oklahoma City was determined to extend the game and force the Grizzlies to make their free throws, and converted five of eight attempts to close out the game.

Randolph continued to carry his team in the postseason with a double-double, leading all scorers with 30 points and grabbing 13 boards. Conley did a great job setting the table for his teammates and also finished with a double-double, scoring 11 points and dishing out 12 assists.

Westbrook led the charge for Oklahoma City with 27 points, but struggled to take care of the ball, turning it over five times. Harden contributed 14 points in his 39 minutes off the bench, while Kevin Durant struggled after leaving the game early due to foul trouble, finishing with 11 points on a 3-of-14 shooting performance.

The two squads will square off at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in Oklahoma City for the right to take on the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals.