The Norman Transcript

Sports

May 15, 2013

Durant, Thunder return home at risk of elimination

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Memphis Grizzlies are showing a knack for closing out tight games against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

All that’s left to prove is whether they can finish off a playoff series that’s been nip and tuck throughout and move on to the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history.

In each of the first three games of the series, the go-ahead bucket was scored in the final 2 minutes. Then Game 4 went to overtime, with Memphis winning 103-97 to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series and put the Thunder on the brink of elimination. Game 5 is tonight in Oklahoma City.

“It’s not like any of the games that it was handed to us. Every game has been right down to the last 2 minutes,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said Tuesday as both teams took the day off. “That gives you hope.”

For Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City, a once-promising season now comes down to desperation time. Without injured All-Star Russell Westbrook, the Thunder need to win three in a row if they hope to reach the West finals for a third straight season or make their second straight trip to the NBA Finals.

For his career, Durant is 1-3 when facing elimination. The only win came in Game 7 against Memphis two seasons ago in the West semifinals.

“One thing about Kevin, he’s going to come back and give everything he has,” Brooks said. “He’s not an excuse guy. He’s not going to blame anything on nobody, other than put the pressure on himself to perform every night. That’s what makes us a good team, because of that attitude that he has.”

Durant has had to do it all since Westbrook had knee surgery prior to Game 3 of the first round of the playoffs. He’s averaging 30.8 points, 11 rebounds and 6.8 assists in this round, and also hit all the key shots down the stretch in the Thunder’s Game 1 victory.

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