MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Kevin Durant swished a 3-pointer 65 seconds into the game. Two minutes later, he pump-faked Tony Allen off his feet, drew a foul and banked in an off-balance 15-footer.
Six Durant points in the first three minutes. One shot via textbook, the other via improv. Uh-oh, you thought. This is going to be one of those unforgettable nights for the Durantula. Maybe a historic night.
And it was. The other way.
Durant made just one basket the rest of the game, a 10-point Thunder halftime lead quickly evaporated and suddenly, here comes winner-take-all. The Memphis Grizzlies again proved they are no Gentle Bens, beating the Thunder 95-83 Friday night at FedExForum to set up the finale of this fascinating Western Conference semifinal.
These playoff novices give the NBA its first Game 7 of the 2011 playoffs, at 2:30 p.m. Sunday back in Oklahoma City, and suddenly, it's not Russell Westbrook on the firing line of pro basketball.
It's his pal.
Durant scored just 11 points Friday night, missing 11 of 14 shots and looking totally out of sorts by game's end. Durant slapped the scorer's table during a timeout with 1:23 left, which was a good sign, since he finally attacked something. The Thunder was down nine but it might as well have been 99. The only thing left was how many missed 3-pointers Durant could jack up in the final 90 seconds (three, if you're counting), and now the pressure shifts squarely onto his slender shoulders.
The Thunder can win without a huge game from Durant, but just like Memphis has proved it can't win without Zach Randolph at least showing up, Durant's got to contribute more than five points and one field goal the final 45 minutes.
“Frustrating, man, frustrating,” Durant said. “Starting the game off like I did, making the first two shots, I got a little bit of confidence. After that, when it goes downhill, it's frustrating.”
In Durant's defense, his hot hand was stopped initially not by Memphis, but by foul trouble. With the Thunder leading 4½ minutes into the game, Durant was called for charging, his second foul. He sat the rest of the quarter.
When Durant returned to open the second quarter, the Thunder caught fire with Westbrook and James Harden and bolted to a lead as big as 13. But Durant never joined the barbecue.