OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma, May 2 – Zach Randolph scored 34 points and grabbed 10 rebounds on Sunday as the Memphis Grizzlies beat Oklahoma City 114-101 in the first game of their NBA Western Conference second-round playoff series.
Spanish import Marc Gasol added 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Grizzlies, the Western Conference eighth seeds who upset top-seeded San Antonio in seven games in the first round.
"We believe," Randolph said. "We definitely believe. Our confidence is up high. I tell the guys we can compete and play with anybody."
Just as in the series against the Spurs, the combination of Randolph and Gasol proved enough to give Memphis the game-one victory on the road, immediately stealing the Thunder’s home-court advantage.
"I think we always try to do that. The thing is that it’s not always possible," Gasol said. "We always try to come out and execute and play the right way. It’s not always possible. Teams are going to adjust, and they’re going to do something different.
"We’ve got to keep being hungry, keep being unselfish offensively and defensively and keep playing the right way," Gasol said.
Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City with 33 points and 11 rebounds and Russell Westbrook added 29 points for the Thunder.
The match-up wasn’t decided until the Grizzlies completed their victory over San Antonio on Friday, giving the two teams little more than 36 hours to prepare for the afternoon opener.
The Grizzlies showed no sign of a let-down as they took a 16-point lead, but they let the advantage dwindle to three shortly after half-time before rebuilding the cushion with a scoring surge late in the third period.
Shane Battier’s three-pointer and three consecutive jump shots from Gasol stretched the Grizzlies’ lead to 86-71 early in the fourth quarter.
Durant, the NBA’s scoring champion, stopped the rot with a three-pointer.
Durant added a put-back basket from a miss by Westbrook and Serge Ibaka slammed home a dunk as the Thunder scored nine straight points to narrow the gap to 93-86 with 7:09 to play.
The Grizzlies responded by scoring five consecutive points. A jump shot by Randolph stretched the advantage to 100-88 with less than five minutes remaining, and the Grizzlies made 12 free throws in the last three minutes to seal the victory.
Randolph, who had two games with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in the regular season against Oklahoma City, notched a career playoff high with his 34.
Then again, Randolph hadn’t made the playoffs since his second year in the league with Portland in 2003. Like the Grizzlies franchise, he had never before won a postseason series.
"I’ve felt like I don’t get a lot of respect I deserve. It’s nothing personal or nothing," Randolph said. "I just try to come out and be the same player, consistent during the regular season and during playoffs. I just try to be this way all the time, play my way all the time, and not be up and down.
"The good players be consistent and stay consistent, not just playoffs but during the regular season, also."
Durant certainly wasn’t making the mistake of overlooking Randolph.
"You can’t stop him. You’ve got to make them shoot tough shots like he’s been doing, but if he’s making them, he’s tough to stop," Durant said. "He’s an animal."
The Thunder host game two on Tuesday. The winner of the series will face either the Los Angeles Lakers or Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals for a chance to battle a team from the East for the NBA title.
While the Grizzlies and Thunder are two of the youngest and most-improved teams in the NBA, the Kobe Bryant-led Lakers are seeking a third straight NBA title and the Mavericks boast a veteran presence in German star Dirk Nowitzki.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson has voiced concern over an injury to Bryant’s left ankle, suffered in game four of their first-round series against New Orleans.
Bryant, however, has said the ankle won’t be a problem in their series, which starts on Monday night in Los Angeles.