OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma: The Memphis Grizzlies advanced to the NBA semifinals for the first time in franchise history by beating the top seeded Oklahoma City Thunder 88-84 to take their playoff series in five games.
Zach Randolph finished with 28 points and grabbed 14 rebounds but missed two late free throws with the Grizzlies holding a two-point lead.
“We got a great win,” Randolph said. “They came out blasting and we stood and fought. We kept fighting and now we will get some rest and get ready for the next series.”
Thunder superstar Kevin Durant had a chance to tie the game with the clock winding down but he shot long on an open 15-footer. That allowed Memphis’ Tony Allen to seal the outcome by making his two free throws.
“We knew Kevin would get the ball. Luckily he missed the shot,” Memphis guard Mike Conley said.
The Grizzlies will meet either the San Antonio Spurs or the Golden State Warriors for the right to go to the 2013 NBA finals. The Spurs lead that quarterfinals series 3-2 with the next contest scheduled for Thursday in Oakland, California.
Conley finished with 13 points, 11 assists and seven boards for the fifth-seeded Grizzlies, who won the final four games of the series after losing Game One.
Oklahoma City made it to the NBA finals last season where they lost to the Miami Heat who also advanced with a win over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night (Thursday in Manila).
The Thunder earned the top seed in the Western Conference postseason, but lost all-star point guard Russell Westbrook in game two of their first-round series against the Houston Rockets.
Their fate was also sealed after trading away NBA Sixth Man of the Year and Olympic gold medal winner James Harden to the Rockets after last year’s playoff run.
Oklahoma City averaged a mere 89.6 points in the series—16.1 points less than they did in the regular season.
Without Westbrook and Harden, the burden was on Durant to carry the Thunder on his back. He connected on just five-of-21 shots from the field for 21 points
“We just tried to keep fresh bodies on [Durant] . . . and make him work,” Memphis head coach Lionel Hollins said. “He was missing shots he normally makes.”
With 11 seconds left in regulation and Memphis up 86-84, Randolph missed a pair of free throws. Durant then dribbled past Allen for an open shot but was way long.
That set the stage for Allen to make his two free throws to close out the scoring.
“That’s the shot we wanted,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said of Durant’s miss. “I would live with that shot 100 times out of 100 times.”