By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — The last time Memphis paid Oklahoma City a visit, most of the drama took place between the opposing teams.
But Thursday, with the Grizzlies back in town, it was the Thunder who provided all the fireworks on and off the court.
Oklahoma City (35-11) rolled to a 106-89 victory and improved to 20-3 at home. But it was an on-the-court eruption between Thunder guards Russell Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha that became the topic of discussion after the game.
“It wasn’t nothing that hasn’t happened before with all of our guys,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “It was nothing for us. We are an emotional group. Our guys are always playing with a competitive spirit. That’s what makes us a very good team for the last three or four years.”
After the game, Westbrook wasn’t in the mood to rehash what happened on the court or his reaction to the benching, which included him flipping his chair over and storming into the tunnel leading to the locker room.
“Nothing got me upset,” Westbrook said. “Just miscommunication. I control my temper like a man, like I did.”
Memphis, playing in its first game since trading Rudy Gay to Toronto, seemed to still be in the shock of not having their former leading scorer on the team anymore. It wasn’t until the second half that they began to play somewhat like their old selves as they cut a 26 point deficit to 11 in the fourth.
But that was as close as Kevin Durant and Kevin Martin would let the Grizz (29-16) get. They combined to score 10 points in the fourth to push the lead back to 20 before both teams cleared their benches.
Durant led all scorers with 27 points on 10-for-16 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and six assists. Westbrook added 21 points and nine rebounds while Martin and Nick Collison came off the bench to score 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Jerryd Bayless paced Memphis with 23 points as he replaced Gay in the starting lineup. Mike Conley chipped in with 17 points. Zach Randolph had a poor shooting performance (4 for 17), but hauled in 19 rebounds in the losing effort.
“I thought we played hard for the most part,” Memphis guard Tony Allen said. “But we just didn’t have an answer for them. We showed signs of weathering the storm. But they rained on us. You have to take your hat off to them. They played good. Next time we meet, they will be at our house.”
The shooting woes that plagued the Thunder in their loss to L.A. on Sunday evaporated in the first quarter against Memphis. As a team, they shot 80 percent from the field, despite racking up eight turnovers.
“I think our fans did a good job of staying with us,” Westbrook said. “Everybody came ready to play.”
With Randolph and Marc Gasol getting off to slow starts, Memphis stayed within striking distance behind Bayless. He erupted for 12 points in the opening quarter as the Grizz trailed by only 10.
However, the Thunder got its transition game rolling in the second period and pushed their lead to 24. Westbrook, who had been in a horrible shooting slump, was 7 for 10 in the first half as Oklahoma City led 58-34.
In the third, it began to fall apart for Oklahoma City. After Westbrook and Sefolosha got into a heated argument on the floor, Brooks benched Westbrook with the Thunder up by 21 points.
“Well, there was obviously a discussion on the court,” Brooks said. “On one of the offensive plays, we had some trouble with our spacing. Thabo cut over when he probably should have spotted up. There was a time-out and I decided to take Russell out because he needed to calm down. Russell went into the back. It was nothing, he just had to regroup.”
Follow me @eyeamtruth
For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.