Memphis, TN (Sports Network) – Zach Randolph had 30 points and 13 rebounds and the Memphis Grizzlies staved off elimination Friday with a 95-83 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals.
"It ain’t over yet," said Memphis coach Lionel Hollins.
Indeed, the eighth-seeded Grizzlies evened the series at 3-3, pulling away in the fourth quarter of a seesaw contest to force Game 7 in Oklahoma City on Sunday.
"You’re not going to see a lot of games like you did tonight," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said of Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer each of the last two seasons. "He’s one of the best at bouncing back. I’m expecting a better game."
The fourth-seeded Thunder led by as many as 13 points, but couldn’t hold off a Grizzlies team fighting for its season in front of a hopeful home crowd looking for a diversion from the recent floods in Memphis.
The lead changed hands six times, but never after O.J. Mayo’s layup put Memphis ahead 67-65 with 2:10 remaining in the third quarter. The Grizzlies had to overcome a 10-point halftime deficit to even get into that position.
They took a 72-68 lead into the fourth quarter and steadily padded it. Randolph made two free throws to push it to nine points with 5:13 to play, and Randolph and Mayo both knocked down jumpers to keep it there in the following minutes.
With Durant flashing none of his scoring prowess at the other end — he was scoreless in the fourth — and Westbrook unable to keep the Thunder in the game by himself, Mike Conley’s layup for a 90-79 lead inside two minutes was a dagger.
The Grizzlies pushed their lead as high as 13 points down the stretch. Mayo finished with 16 points, while Conley scored 11 with a franchise playoff- record 12 assists.
"This is where we want to be, playing Game 7. It’s going to be tough to win that game in Oklahoma City, but we believe we can do it," said Randolph.
Hounded by Shane Battier all game, Durant went just 1-of-10 in the second half as Memphis took control of the game. Nine of his 14 shots were three-point attempts (1-for-9) and he finished with five fouls.
"I felt good. I felt like the ball was going to come back around so I was being patient. But the shots weren’t falling," said Durant.
The Grizzlies, after picking up their first playoff win and knocking off top- seeded San Antonio in the first round, are just one win away from becoming the first No. 8 seed to reach the Western Conference finals.
"This is what it’s all about. This is what we play for," said Randolph.
The Thunder, three seasons into their relocation to Oklahoma City, are on the brink of the franchise’s first conference finals since 1996, when the Seattle Sonics beat Utah in seven games before losing to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals.
"We’ll leave it all on the floor in Game 7," said Durant.
Little went the Thunder’s way in a sloppy first quarter. They committed seven turnovers, including four in the first two minutes, and Durant picked up his second foul on a charge just under 4 1/2 minutes into the game.
Despite that, they led by as many as seven points until a 9-0 Memphis run, highlighted by Conley’s game-tying three, pushed the Grizzlies ahead. The Grizzlies led by as many as six — a 13-point turnaround — but it was 23-21 Thunder heading into the second.
Westbrook took over, scoring nine of his 15 first-half points in the second quarter to guide the Thunder to a 54-44 lead at the break. They led by as many as 13 points in the quarter at the end of a 17-5 run sparked by seven points from Westbrook.
Memphis started the third quarter on an 11-2 run to get within 56-55.
The Mississippi River crested far above flood stage earlier in the week, flooding northern parts of Memphis…During the Grizzlies’ first quarter run, Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Randolph all received technical fouls on the same play. Westbrook was whistled for a shove on Battier after Ibaka and Randolph got physical under the Memphis basket…Ibaka had eight points for Oklahoma City, while James Harden scored 14 off the bench.