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NBA playoffs: Thunder and Pacers win conf. semifinal opening games

The Indiana Pacers and the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated, respectively, the New York Knicks and Memphis Grizzlies in NBA conference semifinal playoff action Sunday. 

By Christopher HartmanContributor / May 6, 2013

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) goes to the basket in between Memphis Grizzlies Tayshaun Prince (21) and Marc Gasol (33) during the first quarter of Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinals NBA basketball playoff series in Oklahoma City, Sunday, May 5, 2013.

Alonzo Adams/AP

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Durant Heroics Captures Game 1 for Thunder

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The Memphis Grizzlies have earned the reputation over the years as a “grind it out” club that may not win with razzle-dazzle, but can hold its opponents’ offense in check enough to consistently win games. But Sunday, in Game 1 of the NBA's Western Conference semi-finals, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant defied the conventional wisdom, by scoring 12 fourth quarter points – including a knockout jumper with 11.1 seconds remaining in the game – to defeat Memphis, 93-91, in Oklahoma City.

All told, Durant had an exceptional performance – scoring a total of 35 points to go with fifteen rebounds and five assists and by earning his fourth game-tying or -winning shot in playoff competition, demonstrating once again that he’s the man who deserves the ball when the game is on the line. Durant hit six of the Thunder’s last seven baskets for an Oklahoma City squad that connected on only 41% of its field goals for the afternoon (the Grizzlies besting them by one percent in that category), though Memphis only hit a third of its shots in the crucial fourth period. The Grizzlies were also stymied on the offensive boards, grabbing only eight of their own rebounds all afternoon which, for the game, resulted in only four second-chance Memphis points.

For the Grizzlies, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph each had double-doubles – Gasol with 20 points, Randolph with 18, while pulling down ten rebounds apiece; but they got little help from the rest of their team, with former Ohio State star Mike Conley hitting only 5-15 from the floor for 13 total points.

Grizzlies’ forward Quincy Pondexter got his teammates pumped at the half by hitting a three-point, half-court shot with no time remaining. But that emotion eventually fizzled as Oklahoma City made the adjustment against Memphis’ Jerryd Bayless, who after hitting for ten points in the first half (including two three-point shots), was effectively shut out in the second half. And even though the Thunder were outscored 27-17 in the third quarter, they came charging back – largely due to Durant’s shotmaking – to outscore the Grizzlies, 29-18, in the fourth.

And after seeing how this thriller concluded, let there be no doubt that little things mean a lot. Oklahoma City was 22-25 (88%) from the free throw line, while Memphis tanked in that category, hitting only 58% on 14 of 24 attempts from the charity stripe. This, as much as K.D.’s heroics, won the game for the Thunder.

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