One night after clinching a playoff berth in a blowout win over the Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder hosted a Memphis Grizzlies team hungry to strengthen its hold on a playoff spot. Memphis shot just 39.1 percent from the field and only dished out 12 assists, but it played a scrappy, physical game and emerged with a 94-88 win that pushed Memphis up to fifth place in the Western Conference playoff bracket. Durant and Westbrook combined for 40 points on 13-36 shooting, while the Grizzlies put six players in double figures -- Zach Randolph (10), Jeremy Pargo (10), Rudy Gay (12), Marc Gasol (13), Tony Allen (15) and O.J. Mayo (22) -- and needed a late three from Mayo to seal the deal on the road.
Riding a six-game winning streak and playing the tail end of a back-to-back, the Thunder couldn't control the tempo and had to play the Grizzlies' ground-and-pound style of basketball for most of the night. OKC only scored two fast break points in the game and committed more turnovers (18) than they dished out assists (14) as Memphis slowed down the action and limited any transition opportunities.
There weren't many pretty moments for Oklahoma City. Every Thunder starter turned the ball over more often than he assisted a teammates -- except for Ibaka, who did neither -- and while Westbrook back-loaded his performance, Durant disappeared in the final period. OKC's star point guard started 2-12 with four turnovers and Durantula did the opposite with 19 points on 7-13 shooting, but when Westbrook finally turned on the jets in the fourth with 12 points, KD turned in two points on 1-7 down the stretch. Serge Ibaka played the role of "Most Impressive Thunder Player" fairly well, as he scored 12 points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked six shots.
Memphis took advantage of the opportunity presented by the Thunder, but it needed every last minute to seal the win. The Grizzlies played nine different players, and the only one to shoot over 50 percent from the field was Jeremy Pargo, who filled in for the injured Mike Conley Jr. (ankle). After a bumpy 2-for-9 first half, O.J. Mayo opened up a bit after the intermission and poured in 16 of his game-high 22 points in the final two periods. Although it seems odd, Gilbert Arenas played tough defense against Durant and pulled the chair on him as the post defender more than once. Meanwhile, Marc Gasol handled Kendrick Perkins well enough on both ends of the floor and Quincy Pondexter picked up a strange technical foul in his five-minute stint when David Guthrie construed his "ball don't lie" comment after a missed free throw by Harden as one complaint too many.
The Grizz never trailed at any point in the fourth quarter, but they never claimed a double-digit lead during that time either, so the game never really felt safe. Memphis has a brutal upcoming schedule -- vs. Golden State Warriors, at Dallas Mavericks, at Miami Heat, vs. Dallas Mavericks, vs. Los Angeles Clippers, vs. Phoenix Suns, at San Antonio Spurs and vs. Utah Jazz -- so every late lead carries a certain air of desperation. A nine-point lead withered to just one in less than three minutes thanks to a free throw parade led by a suddenly aggressive Westbrook, but with 39.2 seconds remaining Memphis managed to turn a mangled play into an invitation for fans to beat the traffic when O.J. Mayo plucked a weak-side skip pass and stroked a clutch triple to put the Grizzlies up for good. It can't rightly be called a "play," but here is the "moment" that clinched the win and moved Memphis above the Dallas Mavericks for the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference:
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