OKLAHOMA CITY — Memphis has branded itself as team that plays hard nosed, physical defense. Once it knows what an opposing team likes to do, they clamp down and find a way to take it away.
However, when the Grizzlies faced Oklahoma City Sunday, they met up with a man who hasn’t seen a defense he can’t solve.
Kevin Durant scored 12 fourth-quarter points to lead the Thunder past Memphis 93-91 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena and give Oklahoma City a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinal series.
“Kevin is a smart basketball player,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “He was a playmaker to his team. I thought he was great. I thought he did a great job in making the right decisions.”
Durant was particularly effective when his team needed him the most.
Trailing 90-87, Oklahoma City came up with a stop on defense. Durant drove downcourt and hit a jumper to close the gap to one point with 30 seconds left.
Once again the Thunder made a defensive play. Derek Fisher deflected the ball to Durant and no time-out was called. Then, with Tayshaun Prince in his face, Durant drained a long jumper to give Oklahoma City a 91-90 advantage with 11.1 seconds on the clock.
“I knew he was going to touch ‘em up,” Kendrick Perkins said. “KD lives for those type of moments. He’s just got a gift.”
Memphis attempted to go to Marc Gasol, who passed it back out to Mike Conley. But Thabo Sefolosha forced the Grizzlies into a turnover with 3.5 seconds left.
Memphis fouled Reggie Jackson to send the second-year pro to the line under pressure. He calmly drained both free throws, putting the Thunder up by three.
However, Jackson fouled Memphis’ Quincy Pondexter while attempting a 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds left. With a chance to tie the score, he missed two and the Thunder held on.