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Grizzlies advance to Conference finals for first time in team history after Game 5 win over Thunder

May 16, 2013, 1:54 AM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Durant walks with his head down after a teammate fouled a Memphis Grizzlies player in Game 5 of their NBA Western Conference semi-final playoffs in Oklahoma City.

The Memphis Grizzlies have punched a ticket to the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history, thanks to closing out the Thunder 88-84 with a Game 5 victory in Oklahoma City.

The Thunder were going to need a superstar performance out of Kevin Durant in order to extend this series, and just as has been the case over the past few games, it simply didn’t come to pass.

Durant started this elimination game by missing his first seven shots, perhaps due to the fact that he was trying to do too much in the early part of things to keep his team within reach. He finished shooting just 5-of-21 from the field, with 21 points, eight rebounds, six assists, and seven turnovers.

With Durant unable to carry his undermanned team, the Grizzlies were able to lead by double digits for most of the game. They got a huge performance out of Zach Randolph, who contributed 28 points and 14 rebounds, and everyone else did just enough for Memphis to come out on top.

Oklahoma City made a late run to make a game of it, and legitimately had a chance to steal this one in the final minutes to extend the series.

After the Grizzlies had re-established a double digit lead with under three minutes to play, the Thunder went on a furious run to get back into it, and cut the lead to just two on a three-pointer from Reggie Jackson with 14 seconds remaining. An intentional foul by the Thunder sent Randolph to the free throw line, but he missed both of his attempts, giving the Thunder one final chance.

Somewhat miraculously, Durant was able to free himself from Tony Allen, and received the ball with a wide-open look from not much more than 15 feet out. Durant makes that shot in his sleep, yet couldn’t get it to go on this night, and the Grizzlies sealed the game at the free throw line following the rebound of the missed shot.

Once Russell Westbrook was lost for the remainder of the postseason due to injury, few expected the Thunder to advance beyond the second round. The fact that they were able to stay close with the Grizzlies until the final moments of every game in this series is a testament to their collective will, as well as to Durant’s ability to singlehandedly be great for extended stretches.

The Grizzlies were by no means dominant in this series, and those who are penciling them into an NBA Finals matchup with the Heat should be cautious in remembering just how efficient the Spurs can be on both ends of the floor before sliding Memphis past them into the championship round.

But regardless of how much you may choose to overvalue this Memphis team, this is a massive accomplishment for the Grizzlies, especially given how inconsistent they were during the regular season. The confidence they’ve gained to this point in the playoffs will serve them well in the Conference finals, though they’ll have to be much more efficient offensively to take down the likes of the Spurs in a seven game series in the next round.

  1. money2long - May 16, 2013 at 2:04 AM

    grizzlies in the western conference finals eh. dang, rudy gay is probably home like, i was on that team.

    • spthegr8 - May 16, 2013 at 8:15 AM

      Kendrick Perkins is the MOST OVERPAID PLAYER IN THE LEAGUE!!!! I can find something better to do with 44 million dollars!! He can’t guard anymore, he NEVER could score. So basically they are paying him to dispute the Refs calls & make those HIDEOUS faces!! The Thunder front office REALLY dropped the ball with move. The $ they gave that big goof could have went too Harden!! Either way, the Grizz are BALLIN!! They are gonna beat the Spurs too.!!

      • spthegr8 - May 16, 2013 at 9:32 AM

        Too follow up on what I was saying about Perk being over paid. He is due too make 18.6 MILLION dollars over the next 2 years. He averages 4.2 ppg & 6.0 Rebs!!!! I got one word for the Thunder front office AMNESTY!!!!! A.S.A.P!!!

      • ras1tafari - May 16, 2013 at 2:01 PM

        Presti completely misread the Perkins situation, and the Ibaka/Harden situation. He ruined a team that was headed for long-term greatness, and now I can only think that the Thunder peaked in 2012, and will start a long, painful slide towards mediocrity.

      • ntur1 - May 16, 2013 at 3:06 PM

        ras1tafari agree would be nice to amnesty Perks–but to suggest the team is ruined when they finished Western Conference with best record seems a bit over the top.

  2. bigmeechy74 - May 16, 2013 at 2:15 AM

    Too bad they traded Harden. Worst. Trade. Ever. And they have one of the worst coaches in the NBA. He insists on playing Perkins big minutes even though it’s apparent to Stevie Wonder that he is one of the worst players in the league. They had 3 of the top 10 players in the league (all 24 and under) and a rising star in Ibaka and a couple really good role players like collison and they managed to BLOW it. LOL

    • ntur1 - May 16, 2013 at 9:21 AM

      Harden was insistent on a max deal. Thunder offered him as close to max as they could, but could not, in this market (as in lacking the big dollar LA, etc. numbers), afford max deal and resulting luxury taxes; and, both KD and Westbrook had given up something to stay with team. They could have “rolled the dice” and kept Harden for this year, letting him hit free agency–and, perhaps that would have been wise–a one year “go for it.” But, now, given that they would have been without Westbrook for this year’s “run,” does not seem like Harden would have been enough to make a difference. Unfortuante to lose Harden. And, yes, he said he wanted to stay, but he was unwilling to accept anything but a max deal. He got that in Houston and has performed admirably.

      • spthegr8 - May 16, 2013 at 9:37 AM

        @ntur1
        The reason they couldn’t offer Harden a Max-Contract is because they gave Perk that extension when they traded for him!! Sam Presti has done a GREAT JOB building this team. But that was a HUGE BOTCH!!! Just Saying!!!!

      • ntur1 - May 16, 2013 at 11:19 AM

        In retrospect, Perkins not the brightest move. (Although I do think there are things to like about him.) However, at the time Perkins was signed, the way through the West went through the Lakers and Perkins was considered essential to getting through Bynam/Gasol. And, truly, he helped with his post play in overcoming the Lakers. However, the league changes quickly, and the necessity of him against that Lakers make-up has altered. And, in the game against the Grizzlies he was hardly an effectvie post stopper.

      • spthegr8 - May 16, 2013 at 1:02 PM

        @nutr1
        Very true and good point. It’s water under the bridge now. They just need too get rid of him. He doesn’t bring much too the table and is making WAAAAAYYY too much money!!!

      • williebeaman - May 16, 2013 at 1:41 PM

        They offerred him $54.5m and he wanted $59. $4.5m more was all it took to keep him. This from a team that made about $40m in PROFIT last year alone. They can’t cry small market on that. Bad, bad, bad move by Presti. Can’t believe he came from the Spurs with moves like that. They will rue the day they made that trade. But, I’m glad, I don’t want to see Clay Bennett ever win a championship.

      • ntur1 - May 16, 2013 at 3:09 PM

        spthgr8 — also agree would like to now see an amnesty for Perks. I like the guy. He seems bright and works very hard. He just does not currently seem to have what the team needs. His post defense is no longer what it was; his rebounds and ability to shoot is at best mediocre. He truly is overpaid. He has a great team heart. Just do not think the team can afford him any longer. But, even with an amnesty you have to pay him–that is a lot of dollars to have tied up in someone who is not playing. Unfortunate.

      • bigmeechy74 - May 16, 2013 at 6:05 PM

        Wrong. They were only a few million short but they decided to swing their d–ks around and say “If you don’t accept this deal by midnight we will trade you to houston.” Then his agent said “they can offer you 5 yr 80 mil you have to do it.” He RELUCTANTLY did. He didn’t want to leave his boys. The front office completely botched it. Have fun with Jeremy Lamb, one year of Kevin Martin, and another average pick. Sounds like an adequate return for the best young shooting guard in the league. What a joke. It’s hilarious to me that okc fans don’t see that. I live in Tulsa and WAS a huge fan until this trade. The annoying fans around here keep arguing and calling harden selfish and act like the thunder can do no wrong. It’s obnoxious and I was delighted to see Memphis win (because of my boy Tony Allen #OrangePower #GoPokes)

  3. andrewproughcfe - May 16, 2013 at 2:36 AM

    Giving up on Harden was incredibly costly. When you add the fact that he really wanted to stay, that may go down as one of the worst trades in a long time. I don’t think that Westbrook would have put them over the top against the Grizzlies. The Thunder needed some of that Harden toughness and crazy energy to overcome the same from Zach Randolph.

    As a Spurs fan, I say don’t be so quick to pencil them into a conference finals matchup. As soon as Curry and Klay’s shots start falling again (probably tomorrow), this will be a whole new series. I’d be surprised if it doesn’t go to game 7.

    • ntur1 - May 16, 2013 at 9:25 AM

      Each game was within 2 – 5 points and you don’t think Westbrook woud have been enough to put them over the top against the Grizzlies? You lost me at that comment. And, although I like Harden, as between Harden and Westbrook, Westbrook is the one with the toughness and “crazy energy” of which you speak. It is too bad that Harden would not give up some to resign with the Thunder; but you cannot blame him–with the Thunder he would have remained the 6th man, and he deserved the chance to carry a team and a max deal. Thunder just could not afford him.

  4. lakerwoman - May 16, 2013 at 2:38 AM

    Congrats to Marc Gasol and all the Grizzlies. Good job!!!

  5. eventhorizon04 - May 16, 2013 at 3:22 AM

    So the big question for the Thunder: Do they bring back Kevin Martin, who is a free agent who scored 14.0 PPG while shooting 45% from the field during the regular season but also earned $12.9 million this season and shot 37.4% from the field in the playoffs?

    If not, then the Harden trade looks awful, unless Lamb or one of their added draft picks becomes an elite player, since they gave up Harden for a 1-year rental of Martin.

    If yes, then something to consider – Harden’s salaries each of the next 3 years are $13.7 million, $14.7 million, and $15.7 million. If Kevin Martin’s price tag is anywhere near those numbers, the trade still looks pretty bad, because Harden has proven he has the talent to be a top-4 player at his position (Shooting guard) in the NBA, and those players are rare. Kevin Martin is 30 years old, and while he’s a very efficient scorer, he doesn’t have the playmaking skills of Harden.

  6. eventhorizon04 - May 16, 2013 at 3:41 AM

    Also, I think the Thunder should amnesty Kendrick Perkins, not for financial reasons, but simply to prevent Scott Brooks from playing him in the future.

    Perkins this year scored just 4.2 points per game during the regular season – that’s BELOW his career average of 6.0. His rebounding (6.0) and efficiency (45.7%) also went down this year compared to his career averages of 6.2 RPG and 54.2% FG. So this is a guy whose offensive numbers have gotten worse as he’s aged, not better.

    As for his defense – against the Grizzlies (one of very few teams that field two low-post scorers in their front-court and thus one of very few teams that Perkins possibly could earn his keep), Perkins averaged 4.5 rebounds per game in 25 minutes while averaging FOUR fouls per game. That means Perkins wasn’t able to outmuscle Z-Bo and Gasol for rebounds or stop them without fouling.

    We’ve known for a year that Perkins is going to be a liability against small-ball teams like the Heat because his lack of footspeed on defense means he can’t guard anyone and his lack of a refined offensive game means he can’t exploit his size advantage on that end.

    However, if he’s also ineffective against “big-ball” teams like the Grizzlies….why keep him at all? I wouldn’t say he stopped either Gasol or Z-Bo while defending them, he just slowed them down a little (both ended this series averaging roughly 20 points and 9 rebounds per game), and that’s not enough to justify his presence on the court when he’s a total liability on offense.

    Perkins is turning 30 years old next season and thus likely has hit his ceiling as a player. His ceiling is around 6 points per game, 6 rebounds per game, and 25 minutes per game before encountering foul trouble. He’s getting paid $17.5 million over the next 2 years.

    • letangusespertplus - May 16, 2013 at 7:22 AM

      I think they will amnesty Perk, draft a big with one of their two first round picks. Sign martin to a more managable deal. Let PJ3 and Lamb get a full camp in and get westbrook healed up. Should be in good shape next year salary wise and young talent. Still probably not enough to win it all but they will be competitive for a long time to come.

  7. 00maltliquor - May 16, 2013 at 3:57 AM

    Now I don’t want to ever hear from no one (including you, Skip Bayless!) that KD is better off without Westbrook or that Westbrook hurts the Thunder or any other variation of that context! Only ONE game in the 2nd round??! Really?!

    • slowclyde86 - May 16, 2013 at 7:38 AM

      Why do you care in the slightest what bayless thinks? Here’ a tip: Don’t watch him. He and his kind care not one iota of presenting thoughtful remarks that leave you more informed, etc. he will say anything that he “thinks” will get more people like you to watch and comment. He is a troll. It’s that simple. It is beyond me why anyone would let themselves be so manipulated.

    • abasketballthing - May 16, 2013 at 12:39 PM

      It’s not as simple as that. Westbrook does hurt the Thunder when he takes bad shots. He does more good than bad of course, and the Thunder need him to win, but he does hurt them at times. The solution is not trading him or asking him to change his style of play. The solution is working with him to help him improve his shot selection, instead of just defending everything he does. Brooks needs to ignore the media and take an honest, objective look at Westbrook’s game and realize that he does need to improve in that area. He’s a great player, but he does have that flaw.

  8. 00maltliquor - May 16, 2013 at 3:59 AM

    Shoulda amnestied little used, over-payed Perkins punk ahss and re-signed Harden. This is crazy to me they out in the second round, in only 5 games!

  9. 00maltliquor - May 16, 2013 at 4:04 AM

    If Kevin Durant don’t like being 2nd anymore, how the hell does he feel now that he was sent fishing…mad early??

    Congrats Grizzlies! Hope y’all win the Championship.

  10. bnwpnw - May 16, 2013 at 4:16 AM

    Sorry Thunder. The Sonics Curse was strong today, playing right after that press conference and all.

  11. breastfedted - May 16, 2013 at 7:12 AM

    Who cares what the Grizzlies do? It won’t matter in the end, as the NBA is fixed to hand Lebron another title so they can keep marketing him as the next Jordan. It is a joke.

  12. davidly - May 16, 2013 at 7:15 AM

    And the moral of the story for Ok City is: You gotta know when to hold ‘em (Harden), know when to fold ‘em. Now they just walked away ’cause they couldn’t run anymore.

    Howard’s headin’ for Houston. You saw it here first. You may now go and read other posts.

    • letangusespertplus - May 16, 2013 at 7:20 AM

      they weren’t going to pay him a max contract either way.

  13. gatordontplay - May 16, 2013 at 7:18 AM

    im surprised dfisher didn’t ask to be released b4 the game to spend more time with the family, only to sign with the heat for the ecf..
    on a serious note if this is the end for fisher thank god!!

  14. sportsnut101 - May 16, 2013 at 7:23 AM

    Thunder traded harden cuz team couldn’t give max deal people. There is tax the team can’t pay in small market

    N I like Martin as a shooter but that’s all he can do is shoot. His def was awful in the series

    I don’t know why they couldn’t pay harden this yr n cut Perkins next yr that’s 17 mil saved on cap or they coulda traded him back to Boston lol Sam presti looks like he made wrong choice Yes he has extra 1st round pick in draft but it’s a weak draft. N what’s the point of drafting in 1st round if u not gonna play the guy

    Reggie Jackson sure had bonehead moments last night. Bet u they missed Erik maynor to

    Can someone explain to me why fisher had 20 shots last night it seemed. Martin can shoot as well I didn’t see get any in 4th

  15. letangusespertplus - May 16, 2013 at 7:24 AM

    Big thunder fan here, congrats to the grizz. They have the post up presence to beat the heat, would love to see it. Rooting for them from here on out.

  16. rickyspanish - May 16, 2013 at 7:34 AM

    letangusespertplus

    Who the hell is PJ3? Do you have to give everyone one of those silly initial/jersey number nicknames to everyone?

    • ntur1 - May 16, 2013 at 9:14 AM

      PJ3 is Perry Jones 3 — draft pick from Baylor, first year in NBA. He is generally referred to as PJ3 by the press and, well, everyone who I know. It is fine that you do not know the reference, but “letangusespertplus” is hardly the one to have insisted on the nickname. It has been his since before he entered the league and, frankly, I have rarely heard him called anything else.

  17. cj1403 - May 16, 2013 at 9:29 AM

    @ ntur1 Both Kd & Westbrook got max deal. Neither of them gave up anything.

    • ntur1 - May 16, 2013 at 11:44 AM

      For Westbrook, as I understood it, he was eligible for the “supermax” deal which would have been annual salary worth 30 % of the cap; instead he opted for standard that deals 25% of cap. For KD, he could have opted for an early opt-out but agreed not to. So, my understanding was that they each had given up something.
      With Harden–do not recall all of the specifics, but believe they offered 4 year $54 million; could not offer a five year deal; and think max would have been $60–but for cap reasons was not offered.
      This is based on best of my recollection.

      • abasketballthing - May 16, 2013 at 12:45 PM

        That’s not the same as giving up money. They gave up future flexibility, but they didn’t even want it, because they wanted to stay with the Thunder for the foreseeable future. Harden was asked to give up money, when he had already given up a starting role and accepted being the 3rd option on offense. Last season, the Thunder were already better than the Lakers, and they knew it. They didn’t need Perkins to beat the Lakers anymore. They could have amnestied Perkins and given Harden his max deal. There is no excuse for the Thunder here.

      • ntur1 - May 16, 2013 at 1:03 PM

        Westbrook gave up money.

    • ntur1 - May 16, 2013 at 3:04 PM

      Don’t take my word for it (on Westbrook giving up money) — do a bit of research; but he qualified for the supermax; by agreeing to what he accepted he gave up abotu $3 million per year.
      Harden was unwilling to make an equivalent sacrifice. Do not blame Harden. He has every right to seek the best deal the market makes available to him and every right to be the go to guy on a team.
      Now, at this time would I prefer that they amnesty Perks. You bet.

      • abasketballthing - May 16, 2013 at 7:33 PM

        Fine, RW gave up money. He was still getting much more than Harden. It’s much easier to give up money when the amount you have to “settle” for is so big. What he “settled” for was still more than what Harden was asking for. And he was the #1 shot taker on the team, so he was not giving up anything on the court. Harden was still sacrificing more than Westbrook.

        And again, if you’re as loaded as Clay Bennett is, you should be willing to lose a little money for a few championships(If necessary. I don’t actually believe he didn’t have the money, I think he just wanted to make a bigger short term profit) . The team’s value will rise so much that if you want your money back, you can just sell it. Amnestying Perkins and signing was the right basketball decision, and trading Harden was a huge mistake that made this team one of 5-6 contenders instead of the absolute best team in the Western Conference for the next 5 years(at least).

  18. tsi431 - May 16, 2013 at 9:33 AM

    Hey Durant,

    Nice numbers, shooting 42% while scoring 28ppg. It isn’t easy when you are the only player worth a crap on your team. Now you know how I feel

    Black Mamba

    • daveitsgood - May 16, 2013 at 2:00 PM

      When has Kobe ever shot 42%????

  19. loungefly74 - May 16, 2013 at 9:44 AM

    (okay…my turn to rant…)

    Good job for the Grizz! i’m really diggin’ the chemistry/attitude of that team. That is a team on a mission! Conley making OSU proud!

    letangusespertplus said, “they weren’t going to pay him a max contract either way.”

    you are absolutely correct. it was a financial decision…which to me, rules out the “worst trade ever talk”. sometimes teams will dump players for cap reasons (ex. Pau Gasol with Memphis…oh hey, that trade is looking better/even every year btw). OKC didn’t want to be stuck with 3 max players because lets remember, this is OKC, not L.A., Miami, Boston, etc…it comes down to money…i understand “everybody is in love with the Thunder and that they are going to rule the west for the next 10 years, etc…” but lets be real…that may not be the case…and that “Harden deal” showed that point…

    well…another year passes for the Thunder and no title to show for…oh, i know, as a Laker fan, i am being a surly, troll-loving SOB right now…and thats okay. i’m entitled to my moments. i just find it hilarious that some fans of the game just throw “history” out the window. my point is, its very tough to win a title. how many have won the title in the past 33 years? only 9 teams! holy smokes! will the Thunder get over the hump? they have a good shot…but lets not make them the darlings of the West so easily…

  20. lakerluver - May 16, 2013 at 9:49 AM

    The dark horse favorites to win the championship. Imagine that, “the Memphis Grizzlies, 2012-13 NBA Champions”!! It could very well happen. Great defenders, great rebounders, great big men and a very good point guard who also happens to be playing his best right now.

  21. azarkhan - May 16, 2013 at 10:24 AM

    With Russell Westbrook, the Thunder are the best team in the Western Conference, without him they’re middle of the pack. As for Harden, it’s silly to criticize Thunder management for trading him. Better to trade him during the season and get something in return then to let him walk at the end and get nothing. The NBA has a salary cap, and the last CBA made the penalties for going over the cap a lot steeper, so keeping Harden was out of the question. Plus OKC is a small market city, much like San Antonio. They don’t have money to throw away, a la the Knicks.

    • ntur1 - May 16, 2013 at 12:44 PM

      Agree. At the time the deal was made, it came down to whether or not they could afford to keep Harden. With small market, they sadly decided they could not. And, still, they did offer Harden a good deal–he just did not accept it.
      Frankly, for Harden, can understand him wanting a chance to lead a team rather than being the 6th man, and can understand him wanting a max deal. For Thunder, can understand how they could not offer it.
      The majority of those disapproving of and critical of the trade do not live in Oklahoma.

      • azarkhan - May 16, 2013 at 1:35 PM

        BTW, another “bonus” for Harden, no state taxes in Texas.

    • abasketballthing - May 16, 2013 at 12:47 PM

      If they amnesty Perkins, they can do it and be in the same cap situation they are in right now.

      • ntur1 - May 16, 2013 at 1:00 PM

        Amnesty means you are still on the hook for the salary; and amnesty plus Harden, as I recall, left no flexibility at all for any signings. Some of this is based on my recollection at the time of the trade; and, frankly I would have loved to have seen a way where they kept Harden. I think they tried but could not make the numbers work. It is unfortunate. Harden, however, got more money and more years where he went and an opportunity to be a no. 1 option. That was not goint to happen for him in OKC.

      • abasketballthing - May 16, 2013 at 1:37 PM

        Perkins is making 7.8 million this season. Harden wanted 6 extra million. If you amnesty Perkins, that money doesn’t take up any cap space. It was possible.

        And even if they lose a little money, it’s worth it if they win multiple championships. Clay B put money above winning. That’s why this is happening.

  22. mungman69 - May 16, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    San Antonio over Memphis in 6.

  23. thefox61 - May 16, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    Just became a fan of the Grizzles after dominating the Thunder in their own house HA HA!
    This is the beginning of the end of the Thunder. OKC fans don’t know what to do when their team is losing. I was amazed at how quiet it was last night when they were being beat down. Most other teams fans would be making noise trying to rally the team, not OKC, losers. Get used to it Thunder fans. In 10 years when your team has become the perennial doormat of the NBA and nobody cares or comes to he games, Bennett will move your team to Las Vegas. You don’t think Bennett signed a long term lease with the arena without an opt out clause after the Key Arena debacle do you? Really?
    Get used to mediocrity OKC.
    Go Grizzles!

    • ntur1 - May 16, 2013 at 12:49 PM

      Gosh such negativity. Guess you stopped watching before the arena became incredibly loud in the 4th and Thunder had a chance to tie? Guess you missed the cheering and OKC chants even though Thunder lost. Guess you have missed Kobe and others referring to the Peake as the loudest place to play.
      OKC hosted New Orleans during their relocation years and filled the arena. This is the only professional sport in the state and the fan base has been wildly supportive for both the New Orleans team and the 3 -29 effort by the early Thunder teams. Very blessed at present to have amazing players, but the crowds have always been appreciative of the effort here.
      Grizzlies won–but each game was close and, frankly with a healthy Westbrook truly believe result would have been different.

    • loungefly74 - May 16, 2013 at 9:54 PM

      im with ya on the premature reaction to make the Thunder the Kings of the West…hasn’t happened yet. yeah…0 titles? they aint crap, yet…

  24. bigmeechy74 - May 16, 2013 at 6:09 PM

    I would love to be an assistant on the thunder just so I could walk up to Scott Brooks during a timeout and say ” Why the hell do you insist on playing Perkins so many minutes? Are you insane!?!?”

  25. memphistigers311 - May 16, 2013 at 9:08 PM

    Man you had me all the way till this line. (Disclaimer, still a good article but..) “The Grizzlies were by no means dominant in this series, and those who are penciling them into an NBA Finals matchup with the Heat should be cautious in remembering just how efficient the Spurs can be on both ends of the floor before sliding Memphis past them into the championship round.” That is a tragic contradiction in one sentence. Only Miami and Memphis have won series my friend. Don’t be so quick to count out GS either just as I, as a Memphis fan will not count on going anywhere but to game 1 of the Western Conf FInals. :)

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