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Thunder force sets up winner-take-all Game 7

  • Written by Kelley Evans
  • Published in Sports

mikeinjured 600If anyone was looking for some of the key recurring elements of the Memphis-Oklahoma City playoff series to be reflected in Game 6, they were extremely disappointed.

There was no record-breaking overtime session. There was no loss of a 20-point lead only to have one team claw back. And there was not much defense and not much offensive rhythm from Memphis.

With Grizz fans primed for a closeout victory on Thursday (May 1) at the FedExForum, the Thunder forced a Game 7, strutting out of Memphis with a 104-84 victory.

IMG JJ_scores_4281Memphis lost its first Game 6 in franchise playoff history. It was a win-or-go-home game for the men of Thunder who just weren't ready to bow down.

IMG celebration_4404After being criticized by a local Oklahoma newspaper for his struggles, Kevin Durant came out aggressive finishing with 36 points and 10 rebounds. The headline read: "Mr. Unreliable."

IMG Russell_4010"Durant went first and he ate first tonight," said Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger. "He made shots he's been missing. He missed some threes, but I thought he was very dialed in tonight. He got to spots on the floor and rose up and used his size."

OKC was in control most of the game and posed an offensive threat all night. Durant and Russell Westbrook kept the pace steady throughout. The Thunder was quicker the Grizzlies and showed more intensity. Westbrook racked 25 points, while Reggie Jackson came off the bench with 16.

Memphis struggled from the free throw line, only connecting on 19-of-28 shots. The Grizzlies led by no more than two points, while the Thunder's largest lead was 22. Every active Grizz player hit the floor. Marc Gasol led the Grizzlies with 17 points followed by Zach Randolph with 16. James Johnson came off the bench punching in 15 points.

"They were shooting the ball pretty well," Gasol said. "They got too many easy points. I think they got 17 fast break points and 42 points in the paint. That's way too many. We tried to make the game close. ...Once they took the lead, it is a lot tougher to get it back. The end of the second quarter was pretty bad."

Memphis was 31-of-83 from the field. The Thunder closed the half on a 16-6 run to take a 15-point lead (56-41) and followed up by scoring the first five points of the second half.

"They have really good players," said Thunder head coach Scott Brooks of Randolph and Gasol. "They got two bigs that can score down low. They got two bigs that can facilitate shots for their teammates."

Memphis' fortunes for Game 7 may be tied to a Game-6 injury. Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley exited the floor in the third quarter with a right hamstring strain. He attempted to return during the fourth quarter but could not play.

Game 7 will take place Saturday (May 3) in Oklahoma City.

"You have to believe in yourself," said Joerger. "It doesn't matter if you're tired, hurt nicked up or not,"

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