Memphis keep on winning, keep on surprising everyone. After getting that 99-72 beat down on Wednesday, it seemed like that Oklahoma finally had a grip on this series, ready to finish it. Zach Randolph had a terrible night in game 5, scoring only 9 points as the Thunder focused everything on him. How did Z-Bo respond? 30 points and 13 rebounds, his fourth 30-10 game in this post season, more than any other player, leading Memphis to a 95-83 win, sending us to a Game 7.
For the Thunder, anti-climatic would be an understatement. Kevin Durant, averaging 28 points in the playoffs, scored only 11 points on an awful 3-14 shooting night. He didn’t attempt any shot from within 10 feet of the basket. Memphis’ defensive strategy of focusing most of the effort on keeping Durant away worked to perfection on Friday night.
The Thunder just couldn’t get anything to drop in the second half, especially due to Durant going 1-8. Russell Westbrook scored 27 points, but the Thunder need Durant, Westbrook ain’t Derrick Rose. He can’t win alone on bad nights from the entire team.
It seemed like the best thing for the Grizzlies was O.J. Mayo starting. Tony Allen and Shane Battier did the work on Kevin Durant while Mayo’s presence made life much easier for Randolph, enjoying the room and space created by Mayo’s threat.
Things will be different in Oklahoma City, but the Grizzlies have shown they can win there. The Thunder need to get Durant going again. Its probably more up to Durant than anyone else. He needs to start driving inside. He’ll get more calls anyway while playing at home. If he limits himself to 20 footers again, the Thunder will lose. Maybe starting James Harden is a good idea as well.
As for Memphis, there’s no pressure. They’ve already won seven games as a no. 8 seed, more than any other 8 seed in the western conference, ever. Another defensive performance like on Friday, focusing mostly on Durant and not on Westbrook is one of the keys for victory. The Thunder are a better team and have the best player in this series. Still, another huge night from Randolph and with Mayo getting more minutes, the Griz might just steal game 7 for another stunning upset.