Oklahoma City Thunder: A look back at a memorable Thunder-Grizzlies series

The just-concluded Thunder-Memphis series in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs had just about everything.
by Berry Tramel Published: May 4, 2014
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After two weeks of grudge matches against Memphis, the Thunder finally broke free, routing the Grizzlies 120-109 (Memphis scored the game’s final 11 points), and Westbrook was phenomenal: 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting, 16 assists and 10 rebounds.

Westbrook’s other Game 7 triple double? 2011 against these same Grizzlies, in the West semifinals, with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists. That’s two Game Sevens for Westbrook in his career. Both triple doubles, including 30 assists total.

The series of Perk

Kendrick Perkins played his usual tough defense on Memphis’ Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies’ star forward averaged 18.2 points a game in the series but shot just 40 percent from the field. Perk made Randolph work for everything he got. But the oft-beleaguered Perkins found more than just renewed value.

Perkins found the hero’s mantle, with a putback at the buzzer to send Game 2 into overtime.

Perkins found diplomatic skills, bringing once-mortal enemy Randolph over for a Game3 discussion before tipoff with Monty McCutchen, getting the referee to agree to live with simple back and forth pushing.

Perkins found a park bench in Memphis’ Mike Miller, famously sitting on the fallen Grizzly during Game 3.

And Perkins found some offense. He made 12 of 17 shots in the series. Even made five of six foul shots. And when Perk opened Game 7 with a hook shot over Marc Gasol, you knew it would be the Thunder’s night.

All a Twitter

When the Thunder fell far behind the Grizzlies in the second half of Game 3, a deficit that eventually reached 17, Russell Westbrook’s brother, Ray, took to Twitter. “We need a coach ASAP like rocky!!!!!!” The Westbrook brothers are tight. Was this a death knell for Scott Brooks?

On the streets of Memphis in the wee hours after the Thunder’s loss, Ray Westbrook stood by his tweet. Said that’s how he felt and if people didn’t like it, they didn’t have to follow him on Twitter. Ironically, Ray Westbrook was being accompanied by team-provided security.

The next morning, Russell Westbrook denounced his brother’s tweet and Ray Westbrook apologized. And after Brooks’ creative moves in Games 6 and 7, his stock is high.

Durant’s revival

Through five games, Kevin Durant had made just 40 percent of his shots, obviously was frustrated and Memphis had a 3-2 series lead. Memphis defensive dynamo Tony Allen was becoming an NBA cult hero, and a stinging Oklahoman headline made national news.

But Durant rallied with two great games – 36 points in Game 6 and 33 points in Game 7, making 23 of 41 shots combined – to keep the Thunder season alive. Allen’s defense withered, Durant started getting more trips to the foul line and he made 18 of 21.

After Game 7, Durant admitted the criticism fueled him, and the Thunder moves on, with no Tony Allen in the near future.

Randolph suspension

The series began with Memphis missing backup point guard Nick Calathes, who was suspended the day before Game 1 for violation of the NBA drug policy. Turns out Calathes wasn’t missed.

Recently-signed Beno Udrih played well most of the season.

But the day before Game 7 came another suspension – Memphis star Zach Randolph was sidelined for punching Thunder rookie Steven Adams during Game 6.

The Grizzlies suddenly were without their leading scorer. And no recent-signee, or anyone else, could make up for Z-Bo’s absence.

Randolph was not having a great series, shooting just 40 percent, but without him, Memphis had to retool its system. Coach Dave Joerger produced an impressive game plan, with the Grizzlies spreading the floor and going small and staying in the game until late third quarter. But without Randolph, Memphis had little chance.

Not that the Thunder offered any sympathy. OKC was without Russell Westbrook for all five games of their Western Conference semifinal series last season.


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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