VOL. 127 | NO. 7 | Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Westbrook, Durant Lead Thunder Over Grizzlies
MEMPHIS (AP) – Russell Westbrook couldn't hit a shot last time he faced the Memphis Grizzlies.
On Tuesday night, the Oklahoma City point guard barely missed in the first half.
Westbrook made seven of his eight first-half shots en route to 30 points, helping the Thunder beat Memphis 100-95.
Westbrook's start was quite a change from Dec. 28, when he went 0 for 13 in a 98-95 Thunder win.
"Last time I was here, I couldn't buy a basket and we still came out with the victory, so I was just trying to come out and be aggressive," Westbrook said.
Asked if he was trying to clear his mind of those demons, Westbrook replied: "Half and half. We won the last time, so I wasn't really worried much. But I was definitely trying to come out and be aggressive."
Westbrook finished 12 of 20 from the field in a much more effective performance than the earlier matchup, which also included a shouting exchange with Thunder forward Kevin Durant.
"He had 12 more buckets that last game," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "We'll take that any night. .Russell was good. He really controlled the game and controlled the tempo. He did a good job of picking his spots and running the plays."
Durant added 22 points and 11 rebounds as Oklahoma City won its fourth straight. The Thunder swept their only back-to-back-to-back set of the season before facing the Grizzlies.
"We're a tough team, a tough-minded team," Durant said of putting together the winning streak over five nights. "We didn't let that hinder us, playing that many games in so many days. We didn't worry about it. We just take it a possession at a time, a game at a time, and I think that's the best way to get through it."
Westbrook scored 18 points in the first half. The Thunder led for the bulk of the second half, but never built the advantage to more than eight points in a game that included 13 lead changes and eight ties.
Thabo Sefolosha added 12 for Oklahoma City, hitting all four of his shots, including three outside the arc. James Harden finished with 10 points.
Despite losing to the Thunder for the second time in the early season, Memphis coach Lionel Hollins didn't seem too upset.
"We went out and played with a lot of heart, a lot of spirit," he said. "The ball movement was good. We only had nine turnovers. .We did some good things. We didn't always make good shots."
Marc Gasol led Memphis with 20 points and 14 rebounds, while Rudy Gay contributed 16 points, but was 7 of 21 from the field. Mike Conley had 15 points and 10 assists for the Grizzlies, who lost their third straight.
O.J. Mayo finished with 12 points for Memphis, while Dante Cunningham and Marreese Speights scored 10 apiece.
Durant, who was 4 of 11 in the first half, converted six free throws in the final 34 seconds for a 54-52 Oklahoma City lead.
"I missed a few shots that I thought I should have made – a few layups, a few wide-open jumpers," Durant said. "I didn't let that get me down. I was still being aggressive and trying to make some good passes to my guys. Just keep playing as an overall team, and I think that's what we did."
A 6-0 short burst by the Thunder built the lead to 75-67 with just over a minute left in the third period, helping Oklahoma City carry a 75-71 lead into the final quarter.
Memphis could not overtake Oklahoma City in the fourth although Quincy Pondexter's 3-pointer from the left corner with just under a minute left pulled Memphis within 95-92.
"They just made more plays down the stretch," Mayo said.
Added Gay: "There were a couple of bad plays down the stretch that kind of lost the game for us. We had a few defensive lapses and missed opportunities."
It was the latest in what is building as a close series between the two teams, who battled to a Game 7 in last season's Western Conference semifinals, which the Thunder won.
"We really don't enjoy each other or like each other to be honest," Durant said. "We beat them last year in the playoffs, but, of course, they thought they were a better team.
"I think we're building a nice little rivalry between us."
Notes: Memphis beat the Thunder in three of four regular-season games last year. But with Tuesday's loss, Memphis has already lost two games to Oklahoma City, both at home. .The Thunder were playing their second game without backup guard Eric Maynor, who was lost for the season with a torn ACL late in Saturday's game at Houston. .Memphis players and team officials wore "GB" patches in memory of Gene Bartow, president of Hoops LLC, which runs the Grizzlies and FedExForum, who died last week. The first 10,000 fans also were given "GB" pins. .At the end of the half, Kendrick Perkins and Gasol were both given technicals, and Westbrook got one earlier in the first half. ... Perkins and Serge Ibaka both had blocks in the game. Each has blocked a shot in all 11 games this season.
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