Memphis, TN-Kevin Durant scored 36 points to break out of a slump, and the Oklahoma City Thunder routed the Memphis Grizzlies 104-84 on Thursday night to force a deciding seventh game in the first-round Western Conference series.
Russell Westbrook added 25 points for the Thunder, who haven’t been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs since 2010. They took control early with Durant scoring 14 points in the first quarter, led by 15 at halftime and never let Memphis get closer in the second half in the first game in the series ended in regulation since the opener.
Durant also had 10 rebounds and made 14 of 15 free throws. Reggie Jackson had 16 points off the bench for the Thunder.
Game 7 will be Saturday night in Oklahoma City.
Conley went down in the third quarter near midcourt dribbling when Kendrick Perkins reached in for a steal. The Memphis guard returned briefly, but Conley was limping noticeably. With the Thunder in control, Conley went to the locker room again and didn’t return.
Durant had to answer questions after the shootaround Thursday about being called ”Mr. Unreliable” in a headline in the Oklahoma City newspaper. Durant said he had no problem with the headline and that he just needed to hit shots and be more aggressive.
Smiling just before tipoff, Durant did just that as he finished 11 of 23 from the floor. He continued to struggle outside the arc where he missed all six of his attempts.
The Grizzlies had a chance to advance to their third semifinal in four years on their own floor. Yet they couldn’t shoot well or match the Thunder’s intensity with a sloppy performance in front of a sellout crowd that tried to energize the Grizzlies. Oklahoma City outrebounded Memphis 47-36 and easily outshot them 49.3 percent (37 of 75) to 37.3 percent (31 of 83).
Memphis last led 6-4. A team that thrives off defense, the Grizzlies couldn’t knock down shots even when they managed to get consecutive stops.
Durant, who led the NBA with 32 points a game during the regular season, opened the game hitting five of his first seven shots and had 18 by halftime. Westbrook also shot better, though he finished 9 of 21.
Memphis got to 42-37 with 3:08 left on a steal and fast-break layup by Conley. Then the Thunder finished the half with a 14-4 run for a 56-41 lead. The Grizzlies missed their first six shots to open the third quarter, finishing any hopes of a comeback.