Admiral Ackbar’s attention would have been drawn early this afternoon: Zach Randolph drew a one-game suspension for trying to punch out Steven Adams in Game 6, Mike Conley was still hurting a bit after a hamstring issue dating to late in Game 5, and Tony Allen had eye issues. This is, of course, precisely the sort of disadvantage that tends to lure the Thunder into a false sense of security. At tip-off, Z-Bo was indeed gone, and Dave Joerger decided to shuffle his rotation even further, starting Allen instead of Tayshaun Prince and Mike Miller in place of Randolph. The Thunder made no adjustments beyond starting Caron Butler again; there were the usual distressing defensive lapses, enabling the Griz to take a double-digit lead early on, but the answer this time was to crank up offense far beyond Memphis’ ability to foil. Oklahoma City 120, Memphis 109, and the Thunder go on to the semifinals against some West Coast team.
How cranked, you ask, was this offense? OKC hit 42-69, 61 percent. Even less likely: 11-19 from the Twilight Zone, 58 percent. Old unreliable Kevin Durant was 12-18 from the floor, 5-5 from outside, for 33 points. Erratic Russell Westbrook had a triple-double: 27 points on 10-16 from the floor, 10 rebounds, 16 assists. (The TNT audience was informed that no, they don’t have quadruple-doubles.) Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson and, yes, Caron Butler all ended up in double figures, Jackson leading the bench with 16.
And you have to wonder what Memphis could have done to win this one. They collected 13 steals; they forced 20 Thunder turnovers; they made 30 out of 34 foul shots. Marc Gasol, despite playing with four, then five, fouls, had a solid-gold 24-point outing; Conley, hamstring or no, made 20; Courtney Lee, the Griz’ most effective long-distance shooter, had 16. Then again, 2-5 was as “effective” as Memphis would get tonight: the long ball failed the Griz time and time again, with five makes in 17 tries. Still, on the whole, they did the right things; they just couldn’t do enough of them in 48 minutes.
Meanwhile at the Staples Center, the Warriors and the Clippers are going at it in their Game 7. Whichever one of them survives will show up here Monday night.