All great series need a Game 7. The NBA’s answer to March Madness. Advancement for one team; pack up the uniforms for the other.
And this great series, this Thunder-Memphis marathon that has included four straight overtimes and four-point plays and amazing comebacks and the headline heard round the world and Kendrick Perkins using Mike Miller as a park bench and Ray Westbrook’s tweet and Joey Crawford’s mad dash, has a Game 7, at 7 p.m. Saturday in Chesapeake Arena.
But if a great series needs a great Game 7, this one might need to step aside. A series that began with a suspension — Grizzlies backup point guard Nick Calathes, for the NBA’s drug policy — reaches Game 7 with another. Memphis star Zach Randolph is out for punching Thunder rookie Steven Adams in Game 6, and with Randolph could go Memphis’ best hope for victory.
All signs point to the Thunder:
* Home court. Game 7 home teams are 91-23 in NBA history.
“The reason why the regular season is important, in a sense, is now you have an opportunity with one game to decide if you advance,” said Thunder veteran Derek Fisher. “You’ve earned the right to have that in front of your home fans and on your home court. We’ve been great at home all year, and hopefully we can be great at home” Saturday night.
* For a 3-3 series, the Thunder has dominated. The Thunder controlled Game 1 and won by 14, with Memphis mounting a short threat early in the fourth quarter that quickly was repelled. And the Thunder won Game 6 in a rout in which the Grizzlies never got closer than 15 points in the second half. Meanwhile, Memphis’ three victories all have come in overtime.
The Thunder was locked in for Game 6, and it showed. “Our main initiative going to Memphis was get the game back here,” new Thunder starter Caron Butler said. “Do whatever it takes. Box out every possession. Not give up an inch. Do all the little things that we need to do. We met about it, we talked about it and we went out there and did it.”
* And now no Randolph. The Memphis strong man leads the Grizzlies in scoring this series with 18.2 points a game, but he’s needed 104 shots to score his 109 points. Kendrick Perkins and Co. have held Randolph to 40.4 percent shooting in the series, and Adams frustrated Randolph to the point Z-Bo punched the Kiwi in the jaw in Game 6. NBA cameras caught it, and Memphis’ best hope for a breakout scoring game is gone.