Kevin Durant found the freedom he was missing a year ago while Russell Westbrook was missing, and the Thunder found it much less difficult to tangle with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Durant scored a game-high 33 points with eight rebounds and seven assists to lead Oklahoma City to a wire-to-wire 100-86 win over the Grizzlies in Game 1 on Saturday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“It felt good,” Durant said of having Westbrook back in the postseason. “He’s one of the top five players in the league. You’ve got to be conscious of him every time he’s out on the court. And tonight he did it all for us. He was rebounding the basketball extremely well, he got everybody the ball and scored the ball at a high rate. He makes it a lot easier for everybody, not just myself. Tonight, he wreaked havoc on both ends of the
The Thunder led by as many as 25 points and held off a late rally to maintain home-court advantage in this best-of-seven series.
Westbrook, who missed last year’s semifinal series with Memphis after tearing his meniscus in the opening round, reminded the Grizzlies how much tougher the Thunder is to defend with him on the floor. Westbrook scored 23 points in 33 minutes. He added five assists and, with his mere presence, he made Memphis back out of the double and triple teams the Grizzlies threw at Durant throughout last year’s five-game series.
In the end, the return of the Thunder’s All-Star duo was too much for the Grizzlies to overcome on a night in which the Thunder’s defense blanketed Memphis’ scoring weapons.
Game 2 is Monday night in Oklahoma
Zach Randolph scored a team-high 21 points but needed 21 shots to get there for Memphis. Grizzlies center Marc Gasol had 16 points but took 19 shots. Mike Conley added 16 points on 6-for-16 shooting with a game-high 11 assists.
Memphis shot just 36.3 percent.
The Thunder came out like a team seeking revenge against the squad that ousted it in last year’s semifinals. OKC scored the first eight points, jumped to a 14-2 advantage and eventually built a 14-point lead in the opening frame.
Westbrook led the way, making his first four shots and scoring 12 points with four rebounds and two assists in the frame. But behind its rotation of big men, the Thunder’s defense shut down Memphis’ attack. Oklahoma City held the Grizzlies to 5-for-19 shooting (17.2 percent) in the frame and gave Randolph and Gasol fits. The Grizzlies’ inside tandem combined to score nine points on 3-for-16 shooting.