Kevin Durant came up big for the Oklahoma City Thunder in Sunday’s Game 1 semi-finals against the Memphis Grizzlies by knocking down a clutch 19-foot pull-up jump shot with 11.1 seconds remaining for a 93-91 victory.
“I just wanted to get up the floor as quick as possible and find a shot,” said Durant, who finished with 35 points, 15 rebounds, six assists and two blocks. “That was the only shot I could find and, by the grace of God it went in.”
Ever since the loss of Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, Durant has had to pick up his scoring intensity and handle the ball more. But scoring has also fallen on the Thunder’s supporting cast.
Kevin Martin, who had a horrible Game 5 against the Rockets going 1 of 10 from the field, then bouncing back in Game 6 with 25 points to close out the Rockets, continued his hot shooting touch Sunday. Martin scored 25 points on 8 of 14 shooting from the field.
“He has confidence,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. “He has always been a good scorer and shooter … We have to be more focused and build a scheme around what we have to do with him.”
The Grizzlies, who were led by the front court of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph combining for 38 points, had a 12-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, but quickly saw it diminish behind Martin’s and Durant’s hot shooting.
“We couldn’t get stops. That’s why we lost,” said Gasol, who finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
However, the Grizzlies had an opportunity to capitalize and send the game into overtime, but struggled from the free throw line going 14 for 24. Reggie Jackson fouled Quincy Pondexter while shooting a 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds left.
Pondexter, who is a 72 percent free-throw shooter, missed the first free throw. He made the second before intentionally missing the third for an attempt for a late buzzer-beater by Gasol, which was unsuccessful.
“Obviously, we have to make free throws, especially myself,” Pondexter said. “We’ve just got to take this as a learning experience and move on.”
The Grizzlies will have a chance to steal Game 2 Tuesday in Oklahoma City.