OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — As they've risen simultaneously into Western Conference contenders, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies have quickly learned to dislike each other.
In their latest slugfest, it was the Thunder who came out swinging but Zach Randolph and the Grizzlies got the win.
Rudy Gay scored a season-high 28 points, Randolph added 20 points and 11 rebounds before getting ejected along with Oklahoma City's Kendrick Perkins during a late-game altercation and Memphis beat the Thunder 107-97 on Wednesday night.
Despite notching wins against defending champion Miami and runner-up Oklahoma City during their current six-game winning streak, Randolph said the Grizzlies aren't claiming to have made any statements early on and are still fueled by an underdog mentality.
"This is one of the best teams in the West," Randolph said. "We're trying to get where they're at."
Maybe that's why every meeting between the two seems to turn into a knock-down, drag-out fight. This one saw Perkins and Randolph confronting each other between Russell Westbrook's free throw attempts, drawing each an ejection from referee Ken Mauer with 2:05 left in the game.
The two tried to approach each other while being restrained by teammates before finally heading out tunnels at opposite ends of Chesapeake Energy Arena.
After the game, Randolph said all was settled between him and Perkins.
"There's a lot of bluffing going on on the court, that's all," Randolph said. "And I don't bluff."
By the time the ejections took place, the Grizzlies had all but put the game away — with Randolph and fellow big man Marc Gasol answering an Oklahoma City comeback bid punctuated by Perkins' two-handed slam that cut the deficit to 97-89 with 4:18 to play.
Coach Lionel Hollins called for a timeout and sent his team back out with Gasol isolated against Perkins, and Gasol twisted his way in for a layup. After a missed jumper by Serge Ibaka at the other end, Gasol set up Randolph for a layup off a designed play.
That all but sealed the latest round for Memphis, which won its second straight in Oklahoma City's home gym to add more fuel to the budding rivalry.
"That's what makes it fun," Gay said.
Memphis ended up losing a seven-game series that featured a couple overtime thrillers two seasons ago against Oklahoma City and has been trying to claw its way ahead of the Thunder, who have been one step ahead in their progression so far.
Sometimes the clawing gets a little too realistic.
"It is an emotional game and we didn't play well and I think the referees were just trying to control the game. Throw both of them out so nothing happens," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "I can appreciate that because with a game like that, you don't want anything crazy to happen."
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