MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE – Kevin Durant insisted the Thunder facing elimination was all the motivation he needed.
Thanks to the NBA’s best scorer, the Thunder remain alive and can finish off the Memphis Grizzlies back in Oklahoma City.
Durant scored 36 points to break out of a slump, and the Thunder routed the Grizzlies 104-84 on Thursday night to force a deciding seventh game in the first-round Western Conference series. His performance came on a day where the hometown newspaper questioned his struggles with a headline calling him “Mr. Unreliable.”
“We needed to win this game,” Durant said. “That’s more motivation than anything, so our team responded. We’ve got to do an even better job in Game 7.”
Russell Westbrook added 25 points for the Thunder, who haven’t been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs since 2010. They took control early with Durant scoring 14 points in the first quarter, led by 15 at halftime and never let Memphis get that close again in the second half in the first game in the series that didn’t go to overtime since the opener.
“You don’t get to his level as an NBA player and a great player as he is to have other people motivate you,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He’s self-motivated. He’s a tremendous kid and does everything for his team, for our organization. We’re proud of him because he gives everything he has. That was the only focus for tonight’s game.”
Durant also had 10 rebounds and made 14 of 15 free throws. Reggie Jackson had 16 points off the bench for the Thunder, who will host Game 7 on Saturday night.
Grizzlies guard Tony Allen said the Thunder simply wanted the game more and called the loss embarrassing in front of a sellout crowd.
“Now, we’ve shot ourselves in the foot, and we have to go to a hostile environment now and pretty much show where our heart is at,” Allen said.
Marc Gasol had 17 points and Zach Randolph 16 for Memphis. Guard Mike Conley strained his right hamstring, briefly returned and left for good with 8:48 left. Conley went down in the third quarter near midcourt dribbling when Kendrick Perkins reached in for a steal. The Memphis guard returned briefly, but Conley was limping noticeably.
With the Thunder in control, Conley went to the locker room again and didn’t return.
Nick Calathes currently is suspended for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy, leaving Memphis with only Beno Udrih at point guard. Pacers 95, Hawks 88
In Atlanta, David West led Indiana on a 16-4 run to end the game, extending the season for the top-seeded Pacers with a victory over the Hawks.
Trailing 3-2 after losing at home for the second time in the Eastern Conference series, Indiana was poised for an early summer when Atlanta pushed out to an 84-79 lead with just over 3 minutes remaining, cheered on by a raucous crowd. But, for the fourth time in this back-and-forth affair, the road team won.
West seemed to make every big play down the stretch, scoring four straight points and forcing a huge turnover to begin the turnaround. West hit two more baskets in the final minute to wrap things up, finishing with 24 points.
Game 7 is Saturday in Indianapolis.
Paul George also scored 24 points for the Pacers, making four straight free throws to help finish off the Hawks, trying to become only the sixth No. 8 seed to knock off a No. 1 seed.
Jeff Teague scored 29 points for Atlanta. Warriors 100, Clippers 99
In Oakland, Stephen Curry scored 24 points and dished out nine assists, and the Warriors forced a decisive Game 7 by outlasting Los Angeles.
Andre Iguodala added 15 points and Draymond Green had 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Warriors, handing the Clippers one more obstacle to overcome in a week full of them after owner Donald Sterling earned a lifetime ban from the NBA for his racist remarks.
Golden State limited big men Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan even after center Jermaine O’Neal left with a sprained right knee in the second quarter. Los Angeles simply ran out of time in the closing minute, missing three shots before Matt Barnes made a 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds to play.
Game 7 is Saturday in Los Angeles.