Well, that was fun.
How ’bout another?
The Thunder’s first-round playoff series against the Grizzlies was filled with more drama than anything on cable, much less the networks. So, it figured that the series would end with a Game 7. Saturday night. The Peake. Talk about drama.
But uncharacteristically for this series, the game was decided long before the end.
Thunder 120, Grizzlies 109.
Now, the Thunder moves on to the Western Conference semifinals for a series against either the Clippers or the Warriors. Game 7 of their series was late Saturday night, and it had not gone final at press time. But no matter who the Thunder gets, it is bound to be an up-and-down, high-scoring series.
More fun is on the way, Thunder fans.
“We will be ready,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We’re looking forward to the next round.”
But first, this series against the Grizzlies deserves a fond farewell. Never before has the NBA Playoffs seen such drama. There were the four consecutive overtime games. That was a first in the long and storied history of the playoffs.
This series had unexpected contributors. Beno Udrih. Joey Crawford. Reggie Jackson. Mike Miller. Steven Adams. And then, it had some old familiar faces doing great things. Russell Westbrook. Marc Gasol. Kevin Durant. Zach Randolph.
Of course, Randolph was nowhere to be seen Saturday night. Friday afternoon, he was suspended by the NBA for punching Adams in the jaw during Game 6. The Grizzlies were suddenly without their leading scorer in the biggest game of the season.
“It was just a shock factor when we found out,” Memphis coach Dave Joerger said.
Joerger met with his coaches, then with his players after arriving in Oklahoma City on Friday afternoon to try and figure out a plan. With point guard Mike Conley and defensive whiz Tony Allen hobbled by injuries, they decided to ride Gasol as long as possible.
And early on, it worked pretty darn well. The Grizzlies scored 36 points in the first quarter, the most they had scored in any quarter this year and, as the Thunder turned the ball over seven times, the Grizzlies built a lead as big as 11 points.
But in the second quarter, the Thunder opened with a 17-8 run that tied up the game. Durant scored 13 of his game-high 31 points in the quarter, and the Thunder took a three-point lead into halftime.
That lead ballooned quickly in the third quarter. A 10-2 Thunder run fueled by Durant and Caron Butler set a tone that the Grizzlies simply didn’t have the manpower to match.
“They were down a man, but they fought,” Brooks said. “But give our guys credit. We were prepared to play against whatever they were throwing at us, and I thought our guys did a good job.”
Now, the Thunder turns its attention to the second round. Game 1 will be Monday night at The Peake.
Is there any chance this next series could be as dramatic as what we just witnessed?
Sure seems unlikely, but word to the wise — stay tuned.