MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies celebrated the return of Marc Gasol with a victory over one of the league's top teams — and one of their biggest rivals.
Courtney Lee scored a season-high 24 points, including the closing two free throws, and the Grizzlies beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 90-87 on Tuesday night in Gasol's first game in almost eight weeks.
While Lee provided the early offensive punch for Memphis, many teammates were talking about the return of the Gasol, the league's reigning Defensive Player of the Year, who missed 23 games with a left knee injury. The 7-foot-1 center played 24 minutes and finished with 12 points.
"Everybody is excited, especially for him," said guard Mike Conley, who had 19 points and seven assists in Memphis' third straight victory. "He's been itching to get out there forever, and I thought he did great. It gave us a good boost."
Gasol, whose return was not announced until just before the game, received a rousing ovation from the Memphis crowd when he was introduced with the starting lineup. He said the cheers gave him "goose bumps" and made him feel like a rookie again. He said the knee did not bother him, but the large knee brace he is wearing is uncomfortable.
"It felt really good, especially since we got the win," Gasol said of the knee. "That makes everything worth it."
Zach Randolph had 23 points and 13 rebounds on the night his inside partner returned.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 37 points, converting 15 of 28 shots. Reggie Jackson scored 17, but also committed seven of Oklahoma City's 19 turnovers. Serge Ibaka finished with 11 points and four blocks as the Thunder lost their third in the last four.
Durant, who has dealt with an aching left wrist and did not practice Monday, had ice on it after the game, but said he did not aggravate the injury.
Lee converted a 22-footer from the right wing as time ran out in the third period to help Memphis carry a 72-67 lead into the final frame.