Oklahoma City won Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals on Sunday, beating Memphis 93-91 behind a huge day from Kevin Durant. Here’s some rapid reaction:
Trailing by one with less than 20 seconds left, Grizzlies guard Mike Conley Jr. drove the lane and lost the ball, thanks to timely a Derek Fisher poke-away, and it went directly into the hands of Kevin Durant. As expected, that wasn’t a good thing for Memphis. Scott Brooks showed great trust, choosing not to call timeout, and his star delivered, weaving down the court and setting up a cold-blooded stop-and-pop 20-footer in transition. All net, putting the Thunder up for good. Here’s the play:
It was over when…
…Quincy Pondexter, who had just been fouled by Reggie Jackson on a three, missed two crucial free throws in the final seconds, letting OKC’s overaggressive second-year guard off the hook and allowing the Thunder to survive a dramatic and hugely important Game 1 at home.
Star of the game – Kevin Durant
OKC’s rising megastar continues to raise his level of excellence. How does 37 points, 15 rebounds, six assists and the Game 1 game-winner sound? Just a legendary performance, under tough circumstances with his running mate sidelined. Here’s Durant’s scoring output, by game, since Westbrook went down: 41, 38, 36, 27, 35. That’s raising your game.
Apparently the third quarter of doom extends beyond the first round for OKC. Blame it on the struggling starting lineup, blame it on the absence of Russell Westbrook (he’s usually a monster at the start of each half) or blame it all on Kendrick Perkins if you want to (there’s a large group of fans who would love to). But whatever it is, the Thunder needs to fix it. They were outplayed mightily at the start of the third quarter again on Sunday, eventually losing the period 27-17. It could have been a crucial blow, had it not been for KD’s heroics, but now should be viewed as a necessary correction moving forward, with all lineup options on the table.
Stats of note
-Of the players who have shot 20 or more threes in this postseason, Derek Fisher is the only one shooting above 50 percent. He’s shooting 58 percent (15/26)
-Kevin Martin has scored 50 points combined the past two games, tying his highest back-to-back point total since joining the Thunder.
-Kevin Durant’s playoff averages: 32.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 6.0 assists.
Looking back, in such a close game, this could have been killer. But I guess Pondexter gave it back with those missed free throws.
Game 2 is Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m in OKC.