OKLAHOMA CITY - Kevin Durant bounced back from his worst playoff performance ever to score 39 points, Russell Westbrook had his first playoff triple-double and the Oklahoma City Thunder advanced to the Western Conference finals with a 105-90 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 7 on Sunday.
Durant, the NBA scoring champion the past two seasons, followed the lowest-scoring game of his two postseason appearances with one of his best. He heated up in the second quarter after an entertaining exchange with his mother, put the Thunder in control late in the third, then put it away with a pair of two-handed slams in the fourth.
Westbrook, criticized throughout the playoffs for taking too many shots, was at his all-around best with 14 points, matching his season-high with 14 assists and producing extra possessions with 10 rebounds.
Mike Conley led Memphis with 18 points, and Zach Randolph was limited to an inefficient 17 points and 10 rebounds. Randolph averaged 28.3 points and 14.7 rebounds in the Grizzlies’ three wins in the series, but made just 6 of 15 shots in Game 7.
Memphis made the best postseason run in its history - having never even won a playoff game before this year - but couldn’t become the first No. 8 seed to reach the West finals.
Lionel Hollins pulled the Grizzlies’ starters with just over 2 1/2 minutes left, after Durant hung on the rim and yelled after his second dunk of the closing minutes. Scott Brooks followed at his next chance, with Durant calmly raising his right fist as he to went to the sideline with the sellout crowd standing and roaring.
Fans started chanting “We want Dallas!” in the final minute. The Thunder will start the Western Conference finals Tuesday night against the Mavericks.
Durant provided eight points - including two 3-pointers - during a 14-2 response as the Thunder regained control.
Oklahoma City, which had struggled to hold onto late leads in two overtime thrillers in Memphis, had no trouble closing out this one.
James Harden added four 3-pointers and 17 points for Oklahoma City, and Nick Collison had 12 rebounds.
O.J. Mayo scored 14 for Memphis but couldn’t provide the same amount of room for Randolph as he did after moving into the starting lineup in Game 6.
It was the first Game 7 of the 2011 playoffs, and the first in the career for Durant and most other players on two of the NBA’s young, rising teams.
By Jay Sekulow
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