Oklahoma City Thunder: OKC stays cool under pressure in Game 6 win over Memphis

Russell Westbrook replaced those erratic traits with rock solid composure, showing the world in the Thunder’s 104-84 thumping of Memphis in Game 6 on Thursday night he can be every bit as special even when he simply settles down.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: May 1, 2014
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photo - Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) celebrates as he comes down from a dunk in front of Memphis' Mike Conley (11) 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. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) celebrates as he comes down from a dunk in front of Memphis' Mike Conley (11) 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. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

Westbrook scored 25 points on 9-for-21 shooting with five assists, three steals and four turnovers.

Durant, of course, wasn’t half bad, either.

After four straight inefficient games, Durant responded with 36 points and 10 rebounds, both game-highs. He made 11 of 23 shots and had two assists, a steal and a blocked shot in 43 minutes.

Both Westbrook and Durant benefited by an unforeseen

For only the first time since inserting Westbrook into the starting lineup in 2008, Thunder coach Scott Brooks switched his starting lineup by choice rather than necessity. Brooks started Caron Butler in place of Thabo Sefolosha, a move that made sense in at least two ways. It could kick-start the Thunder’s stagnant offense, which entered Game 6 shooting less than 40 percent in four consecutive games. And it could prevent the Grizzlies from hiding point guard Mike Conley on Sefolosha, who entered Thursday’s game averaging just 3.4 points on 33.3 percent shooting.

The change, though, meant Westbrook would have to defend Conley. It was a dicey proposition given how inconsistent Westbrook has been on that end in this series, particularly in Game 5. Westbrook, however, took the challenge and helped limit Conley to five points, four rebounds and six assists. He missed eight of 10 shots.

“His defensive presence was really good,” Brooks said of Westbrook. “It gave us energy.”

The Thunder never let it go.

In the face of Thursday’s elimination pressure, the Thunder responded with its best first half since Game 1, taking a 56-41 lead at halftime with a revived offense and more rugged but consistent defense.

The Thunder took a 25-17 lead after the opening period, riding Durant’s torrid start and a much better show of disciplined shot selection. Durant scored 14 points in the quarter, making six of 10 shots, while the Thunder reduced its 3-point attempts and instead attacked the basket on aggressive drives that led to layups and kick-outs to open shooters.

The Thunder started the third period on a 5-0 run to bump its lead to 61-41 with 9:02 remaining in the quarter. The lead swelled to as many as 22 before the Thunder went into the final period with an 82-61 cushion.

Memphis never got closer than 16 in the final period.

“I thought that was a professional basketball win there,” Brooks said.

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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