One game. One single game was the difference between continuing a run at history and an unbearable punch in the gut. One game was the difference between over-hyped up-and-comers and a team that is here to win and here to win now. A win in Game 7 lands the Thunder on the national center stage. Kevin Durant's status as a top scorer in the league is set in stone, but his legacy as an all-time player begins in the Conference Finals.
Now, as for the game itself, THAT is how you win a Game 7. There were several strong performances throughout the Thunder roster, including the likes of Durant, Westbrook, Harden, and Collison. Having said that, it must be noted that victory did not always seem so certain.
In the first quarter, the Thunder found themselves trailing by as much as 13-8, mostly due to the play of Zach Randolph and Mike Conley. At the start of the game it looked as if Randolph was going to have another one of his unstoppable shooting nights, and Conley was showing no interest in exiting the postseason, collecting two points, two rebounds, and two assists in the first six minutes.
The Thunder would fight their way back though. A timeout with 5:52 left to go in the first quarter led to the Thunder to a 13-4 run to close out the first. Their success here was largely due to the substitution of Nick Collison for Serge Ibaka. Ibaka has been ineffective of late, and a dose of Collison was just what the doctor ordered to get Randolph off track before he could really get into his rhythm.
In the second quarter, the Grizzlies scrapped their way back to tie the game due to a pair of Sam Young and Marc Gasol. Still, the Thunder continued to pull ahead, partially due to one of my favorite plays of the night, a Kendrick Perkins jaw-dropping 18-footer that finally put the Thunder up by double-digits.
BELOW: THE SECOND HALF, DURANT'S MOMMA DANCIN', RUSSELL WESTBROOK JOINS AN ELITE CLUB, AWARDS!
The second half is where the Thunder took complete control of the game. There were so many great plays. As the seconds dwindled down in the third quarter, James Harden has the ball at the top of the key with O.J. Mayo all up in his face but through a series of crossovers James Harden was able to create just enough space to throw up a contested three as the shot clock expired which really brought the house down. At that point, I believe the Grizzlies were defeated. Keep OKC off the scoreboard in that third quarter and head into the fourth down only three positions. Being down double-digits in front of a crazy crowd really deflated Memphis, especially after such great defense shown by Mayo on that play.
The fourth quarter was also filled with highlights, many of which you can check out in the video recap below. It should also be noted that Nate Robinson and Royal Ivey both were able to hit three-pointers in garbage time, only adding to the electric atmosphere in the arena.
As I said earlier, many Thunder players had great games today, but there were two players I felt were especially essential to victory (I think you know their names).
First, I can't say enough about Kevin Durant. He had a terrible Game 6, point blank. But did anyone in their right mind really, I mean really believe that he wouldn't be able to recover from that for this game. The Yahoo! Recap actually brings up something I agree with. Durant wasn't exactly stellar to start the game, but during a timeout, the "Dance Cam" started to pan across the crowd before finally setting in on Durant's mother. Whether or not her dancing was skillful I can not be a judge, but seeing the energy she had totally re-energized the crowd. Durant apparently got a kick out of it too, ending the game 1-shy of the 40-point milestone.
I also have to commend Russell Westbrook. His shoots weren't falling, but his critics finally got what they wanted out of him, and that was the look of a "traditional" distributive point guard. Not only did he not seem "jealous" of Durant, but he always seemed to be on the lookout for his running mate and seemed to take great joy in his success. Here's a little historic nugget that stuck out to me (credit Darnell Mayberry): other than Russell Westbrook, who are the other players to record a triple double in a Game 7? Those players would be Jerry West, Larry Bird, James Worthy, and Scottie Pippen. Yeah, pretty good company.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. I couldn't choose, both are here for different reasons (read above)
Thunder Down Under: Nick Collison. 8 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks and great defense on Randolph
Thunder Blunder: Serge Ibaka. 2 points, 1 rebound, 1 block, 13 minutes. He was virtually non-existent, which is ok on occasion when you're coming off the bench, but I expect much more from a starter. He wasn't even in foul trouble this time. We'll need him to step it up against the Mavs.
Thunder Plunderer: Zach Randolph. 17 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block
Next Game: Game 1 at the Dallas Mavericks, Tuesday, May 17, 8:00 PM Central Standard Time