Grizzlies push Thunder back to OKC for Game 7

By Teresa M. Walker

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, May 14 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

Memphis Grizzlies players, including Marc Gasol, right, of Spain, celebrate after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series on Friday, May 13, 2011, in Memphis, Tenn. The Grizzlies won 95-83 to even the series 3-3.

Lance Murphey, Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis Grizzlies may have finally figured out how to keep the Oklahoma City Thunder from smothering Zach Randolph.

O.J. Mayo moved back into the starting lineup, and his scoring threat from the outside gave Randolph enough room to score 30 points and grab 13 rebounds Friday night as the Grizzlies avoided elimination by beating the Thunder 95-83 to push their Western Conference semifinal to a deciding Game 7.

"It definitely made a difference," Randolph said. "O.J. can knock down some shots from the outside. It opened up a little bit tonight in the paint. We had great spacing. They've got to guard our perimeters, Mike (Conley) and O.J., so it definitely did make a difference tonight."

Mayo moved from the starting lineup to the bench at the start of January, though he did start the final two games of the regular season with the Grizzlies resting for the postseason. But the Thunder had held Randolph to 31.9 percent shooting since he scored 34 points in Game 1 of this series, so Memphis coach Lionel Hollins started Mayo in place of Sam Young.

"They were just clamping down on Zach with two or three guys," Hollins said. "We felt like if we put a shooter out there they would have to honor him, and they did. Juice got some shots early on. He got some drives. You have to have some balance outside as well as inside. I just felt like in my gut that was the move to make."

Now the Grizzlies and Thunder will play the first Game 7 in these NBA playoffs on Sunday with the winner advancing to face the well-rested Dallas Mavericks in the West finals.

"This is where we want to be playing, Game 7, that one game to get to the Western Conference finals," Randolph said. "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."

The Grizzlies had never won a game before when facing elimination, but that was back in 2004, 2005 and 2006, when they were swept out of the postseason each of those years. These Grizzlies are having not only the best playoff run in franchise history, but they now have won more games this postseason than any other No. 8 seed from the West.

Mayo scored 16 points for Memphis. Conley had 11 points and a franchise playoff-record 12 assists, and Tony Allen added 10 points. Now the Grizzlies are 5-1 on their home court this postseason, this win celebrated by sellout crowd that stood the entire second half cheering to keep this stunning run going at least one more game.

"We like people betting against us," Conley said. "It motivates us. We know a lot of people don't believe other than in the city of Memphis that we can get this done. We believe we can. That's all that matters."

Memphis outscored the Thunder 51-29 in the second half and 46-38 in the paint overall.

Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 27 points, and James Harden had 14. Kevin Durant, the NBA's leading scorer in the regular season, was held to a season-worst 11 points on 3-of-14 shooting. It was his lowest scoring game since he had six points in eight minutes Feb. 27, 2009, at Dallas.

"He saved himself for Sunday," Hollins quipped.

Durant called his performance frustrating but immediately looked to Game 7.

"It's going to be a tough Game 7 at our place," Durant said. "I'm looking forward to it."

Westbrook refused to call this a blown opportunity.

"We got one more game, and we've got to be able to close it out," he said.

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