He's Mr reliable
Spurred on by disrespectful headline, Durant helps Thunder level series
WESTERN CONFERENCE, 1ST RD PLAY-OFF
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES 84
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER 104
Best-of-seven series tied at 3-3
In a game the Oklahoma City Thunder had to win to continue their season, Kevin Durant had a few things to say about a Thursday morning headline in an Oklahoma City newspaper that had described him as "Mr Unreliable".
Unfortunately for the Memphis Grizzlies, who were looking to close out this first-round Western Conference play-off series at FedExForum yesterday morning (Singapore time), just about everything Durant had to say came through his actions on the court and not through his words.
As Durant matched his series high with 36 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, the Thunder defeated Memphis 104-84 to even the series at 3-3 and send it back to Oklahoma City for Game 7 tomorrow morning.
"We were down 3-2. We were on the brink of elimination," Durant said.
"Headlines - not gonna give them credit for nothing. Down 3-2, that's more motivation than anything."
Had the Thunder lost, they would have become just the second No. 2 seed to lose to a seventh seed in the first round since the NBA went to a best-of-seven format for the opening series.
"We just did a great job of being calm," said guard Russell Westbrook, who finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
The previous four games in the series had gone to overtime, with Memphis winning three of them.
But the Grizzlies never made this game competitive.
They trailed by as many as 22 points in the second half.
Oklahoma City led by 15 points at half-time, and Memphis never got closer than that margin through the last two quarters.
Durant started fast, scoring 14 points in the first quarter. He finished 11-for-23 from the floor in the game.
"I just told myself I don't care if they go in or not," Durant said.
"I just wanted to leave it all out on the floor, take it to another level as far as my intensity."
Thunder guard Reggie Jackson contributed 16 points off the bench.
Centre Steven Adams had been averaging just 5.3 minutes per game in the series, but he played 20 minutes in Game 6 and had five of the Thunder's 11 blocks (forward Serge Ibaka had four) and chipped in two points and three rebounds.
Centre Marc Gasol led Memphis with 17 points and power forward Zach Randolph had 16 points and eight rebounds.
Forward James Johnson added 15 points off the bench, and guard Tony Allen scored 13.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks inserted guard Caron Butler into the starting line-up in place of Thabo Sefolosha, and Brooks stayed with a smaller line-up much of the game. Oklahoma City shot 49.3 per cent (37-for-75).
"They got too many easy points," Gasol said. "Seventeen fast-break points, 42 points in the paint - that's way too many."
Durant went 14-for-15 at the free-throw line, and Oklahoma City finished 23-for-25 (92 per cent).
"He got 15 free-throws," Memphis coach Dave Joerger said. "That was a problem."
Or for Brooks, exactly what you were looking for from your superstar.
"Kevin did one of his best jobs attacking," Brooks said. "He's an attack player."
The Thunder again outrebounded Memphis, this time 47-36. The Grizzlies shot 37.3 per cent (31-for-83).
Memphis point guard Mike Conley (five points and six assists) hit the floor hard in the third quarter and went back to the locker room with a right hamstring strain.
He returned midway through the fourth for less than a minute and then limped back to the locker room. His status for Game 7 was unknown.
Each team have gone 2-1 on the road in this series, which makes Game 7 something less than a foregone conclusion.
"We love having home-court advantage (for Game 7)," Durant said.
"But we know that doesn't guarantee a W." - Reuters.
Eastern Conference, 1st rd play-off
- Atlanta Hawks 88 Indiana Pacers 95
Series tied at 3-3
- Golden State Warriors 100 LA Clippers 99
Series tied at 3-3.