published Sunday, May 1st, 2011

Z-Bo, Gasol power Grizzlies past Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY — Zach Randolph had 34 points and 10 rebounds, Marc Gasol added 20 points and 13 boards, and the Memphis Grizzlies overpowered the Oklahoma City Thunder inside for a 114-101 victory in the opening game of the Western Conference semifinals on Sunday.

Just as they did in a first-round upset of top-seeded San Antonio, Randolph and Gasol provided enough punch to give eighth-seeded Memphis a road victory in Game 1.

Randolph and Gasol each scored 20 points in the same regular-season game only once this season, but did it in Game 1 against the Spurs and again to negate the Thunder’s home-court advantage right from the start.

Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 33 points and 11 rebounds. Russell Westbrook scored 29, but the All-Star tandem couldn’t overcome a big advantage in the paint for Memphis

The Grizzlies, the NBA’s most productive team in the paint with a 51.5-point average, racked up 52 against the Thunder, who had bolstered their interior defense with their trade deadline pickup of Kendrick Perkins from Boston.

That move allowed Serge Ibaka — the league’s top shot blocker — to move from center to power forward and give Oklahoma City two top defenders inside. It still wasn’t good enough against a front line that helped Memphis win three of four from the Thunder in the regular season.

The Grizzlies let a 16-point lead dwindle to three in the opening minutes of the second half, then regained control with a big charge at the end of the third quarter. Shane Battier hit a 3-pointer from the right wing when Oklahoma City failed to get back in transition, and Gasol added three straight jumpers — the last one coming at the start of the fourth quarter to make it 86-71.

The advantage reached 91-74 when Battier followed O.J. Mayo’s 3-pointer with a layup with 10:22 left.

Scott Brooks called timeout and got Durant back in the game, and the NBA’s scoring champion immediately hit a 3-pointer to stop the bleeding.

He added a putback on Westbrook’s miss and Ibaka had a two-handed slam as Oklahoma City rallied with nine straight points to get within 93-86 after Westbrook’s driving jumper with 7:09 remaining.

Mike Conley stopped the comeback with a floater in the lane, and Memphis scored five straight points to bump the lead up to 100-88 after Randolph’s jumper with 4:26 left.

The Grizzlies closed it out with 12 free throws in the final 3 minutes.

Ibaka added 16 points and 11 rebounds for Oklahoma City.

Randolph scored Memphis’ first seven points to stake his team to an early lead, and the Grizzlies started creating some distance with a 17-5 run early in the second quarter. Darrell Arthur’s jumper, Sam Young’s putback and Randolph’s jumper provided the final six points for a 45-32 edge midway through the second quarter.

Randolph extended the Grizzlies’ lead to 54-38 when he answered Durant’s two-handed alley-oop slam with a 3-pointer from the left wing — Memphis’ only 3 in the first half.

Oklahoma City cut the lead to 10 by halftime by scoring seven of its last nine points at the foul line, then Durant hit a 3-pointer in the middle of a 7-0 burst that got the Thunder within 61-58 early in the third quarter.

NOTES: The series wasn’t set until Memphis beat San Antonio on Friday night, giving the teams a little over 36 hours to get ready for Game 1. “Neither team has had a lot of time for preparation. As we go along, the preparation will get better and the game plan will get better because after the first two games, we don’t play again until Saturday,” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said. ... Durant and Westbrook averaged 56.2 points in the first round against Denver, with Durant leading the NBA with 32.4 — 4.8 pts ahead of second place Derrick Rose of Chicago.

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