Thunder feast on short-handed Grizzlies
LOS ANGELES (dpa) – The Oklahoma City Thunder were back in town for some home-cooking following a lengthy road trip and the main course was smoked bear.
League top gun Kevin Durant scored 27 points, Russell Westbrook had 21 with nine assists and the Thunder devoured the short-handed Memphis Grizzlies for a wire-to-wire 106-89 victory on Thursday.
“It was one of those nights we came out to play,” said Westbrook, who lost his cool in the third quarter.
The Thunder showed no effects from a grueling six-game, 11-day road trip. It also didn’t hurt that the Grizzlies were playing their first game since shipping their leading scorer, Rudy Gay to Toronto
on Wednesday in a three-team swap that included Detroit, which brought Memphis Ed Davis, Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye.
The newcomers were unavailable, however, making it easy for the Thunder.
The Thunder struck quickly, hitting their first nine shots en route to a 32-22 lead, which swelled to 58-34 by halftime.
Westbrook had 16 points and Durant added 13 for Oklahoma City, which shot a sizzling 61 per cent from the floor, while limiting the Grizzlies to a frosty 26 per cent.
Comfortably ahead 65-40, the Thunder looked to be in control until the highly-emotional Westbrook went into one of his tirades with teammate Theo Sefolosha over a broken play. It resulted in a Westbrook turnover and the irate All-Star guard spiked the ball twice in disgust while gesturing toward the Swiss.
“It was a little miscommunication,” the tight-lipped Westbrook said afterward.
Westbrook then yelled at Thunder coach Scott Brooks, who quickly pulled him from the lineup during a timeout. Westbrook then stormed into the tunnel toward the locker room before taking a seat on the bench.
“We had trouble with our spacing, Thabo cut over when he should have spotted up,” Brooks explained. “I decided to take Russell out, we needed to calm down. Russell went in the back but it was nothing. He had to regroup and I put him back in for the fourth quarter.
“It was nothing that hasn’t happened before, not with just him but with other guys,” he continued. “We’re an emotional group; we’re always playing with competitive spirit. That’s what’s made us a very good team over the last 3-4 years.”
The Grizzlies showed signs of life and finished on 27-14 period-ending run to pull within 79-67.
Westbrook started the fourth quarter and promptly delivered. He nailed a jumper, then found Kevin Martin for a corner triple on the ensuing play, as the gap quickly grew to 86-69 with nine minutes 32 seconds left and the Thunder (35-11) improved to 20-3 at home sweet home.
Jerryd Bayless led Memphis with a season-high 23 points, Mike Conley added 17 while Zach Randolph grabbed 19 rebounds in the loss.
In the day’s other game, the Golden State Warriors defeated the Dallas Mavericks 100-97.