Oklahoma City. Memphis. FedEx Forum. You can practically smell the bodies hitting the floor. The Thunder barely kept the Griz at bay through three quarters; Memphis started the fourth with an 8-0 run to claim the lead. At the 1:47 point, it was tied at 95-all. On the next two possessions, Russell Westbrook served up a dime to Doug McDermott, who knocked down a trey, and then Westbrook sank a trey of his own. With 0.8 to go, Andrew Harrison snagged a layup to make it 101-100; Westbrook stole the inbound, was fouled, and sank two free throws to put it completely out of reach. OKC 103, Memphis 100, the season series is won, and sixth place in the West is assured.
And no, no triple-double. He missed it by one rebound: 45-9-10. Still, Westbrook’s ability to close ’em out is unequaled, and that’s what he did, getting 14 of those points in the fourth quarter despite missing three free throws. (Just about everyone in Thunder blue missed free throws: the team was a dismal 15-24.) Both sides had injuries to deal with: Mike Conley of the Griz and the Thunder’s Alex Abrines were unavailable, and Andre Roberson exited early. The usual Memphis suspects did the bear’s share of scoring, with Marc Gasol coming up with 23, Zach Randolph with 20 off the bench, and Tony Allen with 14 on 7-10 shooting. The Griz actually outshot OKC, 47 percent to 44; Memphis came up with 9 treys out of 26, while the Thunder managed an improbable 14-31. Most of those came from, yes, Russell Westbrook, who was 8-13 from downtown.
So that’s Game 78. Four left. And none of those four against winning teams: Phoenix, Denver and Minnesota on the road, followed by Denver again at home. Then again, any of these clubs can wallop a sleepwalking Thunder, so staying awake is of the essence. Fortunately, Westbrook is a closer, so he gets coffee.