We still don't know who's more worn down from those Memphis marathons, Grizzlies players or Thunder fans.
Just leave Oklahoma City's NBA team out of it. The young Thunder legs that Memphis coach Lionel Hollins insisted would be as fatigued as the rest of us ran the Grizzlies ragged Wednesday night.
So much so that Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the other Thunder starters rested the entire fourth quarter while the reserves finished off a 99-72 rout that propelled Oklahoma City within a win of the Western Conference finals.
The Thunder bench outscored Grizzlies starters 53-45. Daequan Cook's 18 points in 18 minutes were more than any Memphis first-teamer and all 12 OKC players in uniform scored. Nick Collison contributed 10 points, nine rebounds and another stifling defensive performance on Memphis star Zach Randolph. James Harden filled the stat sheet with nine points, six rebounds and five assists.
Durant scored 19 points in 30 minutes. Westbrook had 11 points and six assists in 25 minutes. Both played more than 50 minutes in Oklahoma City's 133-123 triple-overtime win in Game 3, so the rest came in handy. Given the entire evening off was the raging national debate over whether Westbrook (10 shots) or Durant (14) should be shooting more.
By the time Thunder coach Scott Brooks lit his human victory cigar — seldom-used 5-foot-9 guard Nate Robinson, who entered the game with 4:16 left — a 27-point lead allowed Thunder fans to think about stuff they hadn't dared consider in this series.
Like leaving early to catch up on sleep.
Or wondering whether the Heartland Flyer, the Amtrak service between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, would be offering a Thunder-Mavericks series special the next two weeks.
The Thunder can close out this best-of-seven series with a victory Friday in Memphis. A win would send Oklahoma City to Dallas on Sunday for Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. A loss would bring it back home for Game 7 against Memphis. Either way the Thunder will be playing at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
The Thunder-Grizzlies series defined by blown leads and marathon games took a dramatic turn Wednesday before another sellout crowd of 18,203. Oklahoma City made sure there was none of that.
This time there were no Memphis rallies. No heart-stopping, game-tying 3-pointers by the Grizzlies. And after the sleep-deprived drama of Monday's triple-overtime victory in Game 4, the only legitimate dread Thunder fans could conjure Wednesday came at the start. Their tradition of standing until the first OKC basket lasted almost four minutes and accompanied a 6-0 Memphis start.
Tied 17-17 after a first quarter of scoring more befitting a Wheat Capitol tourney high school basketball game in Enid than an NBA Playoff game, the Thunder found its legs and stride in the final four minutes of the first half.
Three dunks — one each by Harden, Westbrook and Serge Ibaka — fed a 9-2 run that had OKC leading 46-35 at intermission.
By then, Hollins' pregame assertion that Monday night's triple-overtime game would impact both teams equally was proved false.
"I don't know if fatigue was a factor," Brooks said. "It wasn't for us."
All those minutes — two games at the FedExForum featuring four overtime periods — melted Memphis. Point guard Mike Conley, who ran a pick-and-roll clinic in the Grizzlies' Game 3 comeback victory, missed 11 of his first 14 shots. His first attempt of the second half, a driving layup, barely reached the rim.
Randolph, who terrorized OKC in Game 1 here and almost every time the teams have met before this series, missed 6 of his first 8 and sat down midway through the third quarter with his fourth foul. He finished with nine points after a fourth straight game of harassment from Collison and Co.
Twice in the first half Randolph never made it past half-court on Thunder offensive possessions, once standing in the Memphis lane watching an OKC fast break. He was even less active in the second half, when even Hollins had to admit the Grizzlies starters were "running in mud."