Thunder advance by routing Grizzlies
Oklahoma City in West finals
OKLAHOMA CITY — Coming off his worst performance in the playoffs, Kevin Durant couldn’t get his shots to fall again.
Then he caught a glimpse of his mother dancing during a timeout and, like magic, the ball started going through the net.
Durant scored 39 points for his best offensive outing of the series, Russell Westbrook had his first playoff triple-double and the Oklahoma City Thunder advanced to the Western Conference finals with a 105-90 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 7 yesterday.
“I knew she had those dance moves,’’ Durant said. “She used to do it all the time when I was young. She was having fun. I was glad to see that.’’
Soon enough, he was having fun, too — and the Thunder are two-stepping into Texas for the franchise’s first appearance in the West finals since losing in the NBA finals in 1996 as the Seattle SuperSonics.
Durant, the NBA scoring champion the past two seasons, followed the lowest-scoring game of his two postseason appearances with one of his best. He heated up in the second quarter after the entertaining exchange with his mother, put the Thunder in control late in the third, then put it away with a pair of two-handed slams in the fourth.
“Durant is a special player, one of the best players in the NBA,’’ said Memphis star Zach Randolph (17 points, 10 rebounds). “The kid is a gym-rat, he works hard. He’s one of my favorite players. You’ve got to give him kudos and give him respect.
“You see what he does night in and night out and he’s just relentless.’’
Westbrook, criticized throughout the playoffs for taking too many shots, was at his all-around best with 14 points, matching his season-high with 14 assists and producing extra possessions with 10 rebounds. It was only the fifth triple-double in a Game 7, according to information provided to the team by the Elias Sports Bureau. Larry Bird, Jerry West, James Worthy, and Scottie Pippen also accomplished the feat.
“He gets picked on a little bit, but one of the things [with] Russell, he keeps playing,’’ Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He keeps improving, he keeps getting better and tonight he controlled the game.’’
Mike Conley scored 18 points to lead Memphis, which had never won a playoff game before this year and made a bid to become the first No. 8 seed to reach the West finals.
“We just believed we could play with anybody,’’ said Randolph, who had averaged 28.3 points and 14.7 rebounds in the Grizzlies’ three wins in the series. “We’ve been competing like this all year. We just wasn’t seen nationally and a lot of people didn’t know about us because weren’t on TV a lot, but we’ve been playing good basketball all year and competing with the best teams.’’
James Harden added four 3-pointers and 17 points for Oklahoma City, and Nick Collison had 12 rebounds.
O.J. Mayo scored 14 for Memphis but couldn’t provide the same amount of room for Randolph as he did after moving into the starting lineup in Game 6.
It was the first Game 7 of the 2011 playoffs, and the first in the career for Durant and most other players on two of the NBA’s rising teams.