Thunder's season ends in heartbreak
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka dunks in front of Memphis Grizzlies Tayshaun Prince during Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinals playoff series in Oklahoma City on Wednesday. Memphis won 88-84 to reach the Western Conference Finals. Alonzo Adams / Associated Press
Durant unable to come up big in clutch game against Memphis
In a season that seemed doomed once All-Star Russell Westbrook was lost to a knee injury, Kevin Durant couldn't save the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Facing a desperation game and one last desperation shot, Durant couldn't come through in the clutch and give the Thunder a chance to play another day.
Durant struggled through one of the worst shooting performances of his playoff career and missed a jumper that would have tied it in the closing seconds. Oklahoma City's season ended on Wednesday night with an 88-84 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals.
The three-time scoring champion missed a 16-foot jumper from the left wing to tie it with 6 seconds left and ended up with 21 points on 5-for-21 shooting, his third-worst performance in the postseason.
"I can live with myself knowing that I gave it all that I had," said Durant, who played all 48 minutes.
Zach Randolph had 28 points and 14 rebounds, and Mike Conley added 13 points and 11 assists as the fifth-seeded Grizzlies advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. They will face either San Antonio or Golden State in the next round.
"This is the first time, so it definitely means a lot. I'm happy, but we've still got work to do," Randolph said. "I want to win a ring."
In a series filled with games that went down to the wire, the finale fit right in - even though the Thunder trailed by 12 with 3 minutes left. Reggie Jackson's 3-pointer finished off a 16-6 rally, cutting the deficit to 86-84 with 14.3 seconds remaining.
Randolph missed both free throws with 11.3 seconds on the clock to give the Thunder one last chance to save their season. Durant got the ball beyond the 3-point line on the left wing and navigated around Tony Allen before missing the jumper.
"That's the shot that we wanted. ... That's the shot I will live with 100 times out of 100 times," coach Scott Brooks said.
Allen got the rebound, was fouled and made two free throws to close it out.
The top-seeded Thunder, who made it to the NBA Finals last season, went 2-6 after Westbrook had knee surgery two games into the first round.
"I believe in our guys. I'm disappointed we didn't win this series. I felt that we were good enough to win this series," Brooks said.
The Thunder fell to 1-4 in elimination games over the past four seasons. Two of Durant's worst performances came in those games, with a 5-for-23 outing against the Lakers in Game 6 of the 2010 first round. His worst shooting performance percentage-wise in the postseason was 3 for 14 against the Grizzlies in Game 6 of the 2011 West semifinals.
"I gave it all I had for my team. I left it all out there on the floor," said Durant, who had three of his seven turnovers in the fourth quarter. "I missed 16 shots, but I kept fighting, I kept being aggressive. That's all I can ask for."
Serge Ibaka had 17 points and eight rebounds before fouling out with 1:26 to play. Jackson scored 16 and Kevin Martin 10.
It was just a big enough cushion to finish off a series of games that all came down to the wire. The first three games featured a go-ahead basket in the final two minutes, and Game 4 went to overtime. Memphis won the final four games.
(China Daily 05/17/2013 page24)