For once in this historic series, a game was decided early

A series defined by wild finishes and a crazy streak of overtimes suddenly was determined not by the end, but by the start. This crucial Game 6 in the historic Thunder-Grizzlies joust was decided early. Not late.
by Berry Tramel Modified: May 2, 2014 at 12:09 am •  Published: May 2, 2014


photo - Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (35) celebrates after a dunk between Memphis' Mike Miller (13) and James Johnson (3) during Game 6  in the first round of the NBA playoffs between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn., Thursday, May 1, 2014. Oklahoma City won 104-84. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (35) celebrates after a dunk between Memphis' Mike Miller (13) and James Johnson (3) during Game 6 in the first round of the NBA playoffs between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn., Thursday, May 1, 2014. Oklahoma City won 104-84. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

Durant’s defense was no small thing. Scotty Brooks switched his starting lineup, inserting Caron Butler for Thabo Sefolosha, and it paid off famously. The big gamble is perimeter defense, Thabo’s forte, but Durant stood in the gap. He switched over from Tayshaun Prince to cover Memphis sharpshooter Courtney Lee, a much tougher assignment, and Lee was a non-factor. He finished with four points on 2-of-7 shooting.

That lineup change spread Memphis’ defense and gave Durant more room to maneuver. Defensive demon Tony Allen was his usual pesky self, but Durant stayed on the attack. He made 14 of 15 foul shots and 11 of 23 shots from the field. That’s the kind of stat line that will send the Grizzlies screaming into the offseason.

“KD was KD,” said Allen. “We have to fight him. We understand what he wants to do. We just have to be the aggressors on the defensive end. Obviously, he was the aggressor tonight. We knew coming into this series, he was going to be an MVP type player.”

And the start had everything to do with it. In the crucial Game 5, the Thunder came out lethargic, fell into a hole and were fortunate to recover from a 20-point deficit to force overtime.

There was none of that in Game 6.

“They hit us first,” Allen said. “They played harder than us. They were doing the things that we usually do to start off a game.”

Except Memphis never starts off a game with an aggressive Durant on its side. The Thunder did, and now there’s a Game 7.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at . He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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