Behind power forward Zach Randolph’s 30 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks, the Memphis Grizzlies showed their mettle against the surging Oklahoma City Thunder on May 13 at Memphis’ FedEx Forum. Down 3-2 in their best-of-seven series and trailing by 13 points before halftime, the Grizzlies used a strong second half to erase both deficits to even the series with a 95-83 victory and force a Game Seven. Memphis outscored Oklahoma City 51-29 after intermission in front of a rocking home court, one that the team hopes to see again at least three more times if it’s able to pull off an upset on the road against the Thunder.

“This is where we want to be playing, Game Seven, that one game to get to the Western Conference finals,” Randolph told reporters. “It’s important. I feel good, but the job ain’t done yet. We know it’s going to be tough going to Oklahoma trying to win that game. We believe we can do it, and we’re committed.”

Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins was committed to opening up the court for Randolph to operate more in the low post, so he started reserve guard O.J. Mayo for the first time this postseason. The result was a 16-point, four-steal and four-assist performance from the sharp shooting Mayo, who also added a pair of three pointers in the win.

“It’s a responsibility to come out and give us a great shot, and I get an opportunity to stretch the floor for big Zach and Marc and let them go to work,” Mayo said afterwards.

While Mayo and Randolph were keys, the Grizzlies also received a breather from an uncharacteristic off game from Thunder All Star Kevin Durant. The Suitland, Md native had his worse game of his tender 17-game playoff career, registering just 11 points on 3-of-14 shooting and 1-for-9 from three-point range. Durant nailed his first two shots before a pair of early fouls forced him to the bench, throwing off his rhythm. “I started the game off like I did,” Durant told reporters. “After that, it goes downhill. It’s frustrating.”

Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 27 points and four assists but without his normally reliable scoring partner, the Thunder wilted under constant pressure from Memphis in the second half. After slugging it out through six games so far, Memphis and Oklahoma will square off in the first Game Seven of the 2011 NBA postseason in Oklahoma City on Sunday, May 15.

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO