A triple-double is something special. A triple-double in Game 7 of a playoff series is especially special. Russell Westbrook had 27 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds Saturday night in Oklahoma City to help the Thunder eliminate the Memphis Grizzlies and move on in the NBA Playoffs 120-109.
The Grizzlies came out like they did not notice the absence of their leading scorer Zach Randolph (suspended for punching the Thunder’s Steven Adams in Game 6), clawing their way to an 11-point lead with 1:19 to go in the first quarter. Then the Thunder-storm began. Slowly chipping away at the lead, the Thunder finally took a three-point lead into halftime. It was not, however, so much the slim lead as it was the score, 61-58, that indicated Oklahoma City had the game going the way they wanted. Without their leading scorer, the Grizzlies would be hard-pressed to stay in the game if the scoreboard continued to light up at that pace. In the second half, the Thunder made sure that it did. From the time the Grizzlies had their 11-point lead until the end of the game; Oklahoma City shot 66 percent from the field. They led by as many as 22 points in the fourth quarter.
Saturday night’s Game 7 was the first time in the entire series, which included four overtime games, that the Thunder eclipsed their regular season points-per-game average of 106. Once again, as in Game 6, Oklahoma City’s big two, Kevin Durant and Westbrook, concentrated less on 3-point shots and more on higher-percentage shots. They were a combined 22 for 36 from the floor, and a perfect 7 for 7 from long-range.
It was a dream night for Westbrook. His triple-double was his second of this playoff series, and his 16 assists tied the franchise record for a playoff game. Nate McMillan had 16 assists for the team in 1987 when they were still the Seattle Supersonics. “I was just trying to take what the defense gave me,” said Westbrook. In addition to his second triple-double in this series, it was the third time in his career that he has scored a triple-double in post-season play.
After the game, Thunder coach Scott Brooks credited the Grizzlies for playing a tough series, but also gave his guys credit too: “Going into this game we knew they were going to be down a man, they were going to play with some different lineups. We were prepared to play against whatever they were throwing at us and I thought our guys did a good job.”
Durant was the leading scorer for the Thunder with 33 points. Reggie Jackson had another stellar performance off of the bench with 16 points. Caron Butler, in the starting lineup again, added 15. Durant also contributed eight rebounds, all on the defensive end. For Memphis, Marc Gasol had 24 points and Mike Conley had 20.
After their 120-109 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, the Oklahoma City Thunder will move on to the second round. They will take on either the Golden State Warriors or the Los Angeles Clippers. Game one in the best-of-seven series will be Monday night in Oklahoma City.
Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky