Though neither team had given in the entire series, something still had to give in Game 7.
The Thunder wound up giving the Cinderella Grizzlies a season-ending 105-90 setback to advance to the Western Conference Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. Game 1 is Tuesday at 8 p.m. inside American Airlines Center.
With the victory secured, and a sellout crowd of 18,203 inside Oklahoma City Arena going bonkers, it was easily evident OKC players still had further business – perhaps in a place farther away than the Metroplex.
When Thunder coach Scott Brooks sent in five replacements with 1:50 left in the game, there were no celebrations as players exited the court before arguably the loudest crowd in Thunder history.
Kevin Durant walked off clinching one fist. Russell Westbrook smiled. Nick Collison remained calm. Kendrick Perkins scowled.
Thunder reserve guard James Harden was the last to leave and did what everyone wearing a free blue T-shirt was doing inside the building at that exact moment.
Harden smiled and clapped, before Brooks delivered a congratulatory pat on the back side of his head.
Harden was applauding many things – the moment, the result, the crowd. Harden would have been entitled to applaud himself after finishing with 17 points, four 3-pointers, four rebounds, four steals and three assists.
“We are not done yet,” Harden said afterward. “We still have more games to play.”
The franchise advances to the conference finals for the first time since 1995-96, when the Seattle SuperSonics eventually lost to the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals.
Unlike several earlier contests in the OKC-Memphis series, Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals was firmly in the winner's grasp.
This time, no double-digit lead would be blown. There would be no fourth-quarter collapse, no late run from the Grizzlies who – living up to their nickname – scratched and clawed until the final buzzer.Postgame Thoughts: What did you think? Box Score: Thunder wins 105-90