After fighting off a furious third-quarter rally, the Oklahoma City Thunder topped the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 1 of their first-round series, winning by a final score of 100-86.
Oklahoma City was led by Kevin Durant, who scored 33 points on 13-of-25 shooting, to go along with eight rebounds and seven assists.
Russell Westbrook added 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, contributing to the victory despite struggling from the field.
Those two spurred an early charge that ended up in a 56-34 halftime lead.
Memphis' first half shot chart looks more like a hockey season than a basketball game pic.twitter.com/Kn1OqAJF1L— canishoopus (@canishoopus) April 20, 2014
In the third quarter, the Grizzlies stormed back, as they temporarily stifled Westbrook and Durant on the way to a 31-13 frame.
.@memgrizz have scored more points in 4:43 of play in the 3rdQ (17pts) than they did in the entire 1stQ (16). Just a 9pt-deficit now— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) April 20, 2014
They would manage to cut the lead all the way to four, but ultimately ran out of gas, as OKC's stars adjusted to the defensive pressure.
Dave Joerger on if his guys ran out of gas in the second half: "No question."— Royce Young (@royceyoung) April 20, 2014
Key Player Grades
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder, Small Forward
After having his way with Tayshaun Prince throughout the first half, Durant was flat-out shut down by Tony Allen in the third quarter.
Allen fought around every screen and stayed with Durant after any move he made, challenging every shot and just generally frustrating OKC's star. By taking him out of the game, the Thunder were completely neutralized throughout the third.
Tony Allen’s really jamming Durant’s legs.— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) April 20, 2014
Then, as we probably should've expected, Durant figured Allen out. He went 5-of-6 for 13 points in the fourth quarter and also handed out two assists.
He completely dominated for three quarters, and that was more than enough.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder, Point Guard
Westbrook is nothing, if not aggressive. After sitting out all of the 2013 playoffs with a knee injury, Westbrook looked intent on getting his in the first postseason game of 2014.
He finished 8-of-19 from the field, scoring 23 points. Another product of the hyper-aggression? He committed five turnovers.
But as so many say, he is what he is, right? And OKC needs him at his aggressive best to be able to win a title.
Well, what he is can be pretty ineffective against a good defensive team that has time to set up for half-court sets.
When Memphis stifled OKC's fast break in the third quarter, the Thunder looked terrible. Their offense was stagnant and typically ended in unsuccessful iso-ball possessions.
It's in those times that a point guard needs to be able to facilitate something—not just for himself—but for others. Against a great defensive team like the Grizzlies, he's going to need to figure out how to do just that.
But all this may be a little harsh when you consider the overall impact Westbrook had on the game. Sure, he missed a lot of shots, but he made things happen on both ends.
Even when he struggles from the field, you can count on Westbrook to play tough defense and rebound. He simply does whatever he can to win.
Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder, Power Forward
Serge Ibaka tonight: 6/8 shooting, 17 points 9 rebounds, 4 blocks. pic.twitter.com/XfrSPseHKd— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) April 20, 2014
Serge Ibaka didn't get a ton of looks on offense, but he was effective when he did. He finished the game with 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
But as is often the case, his biggest impact came on the defensive end. Ibaka caused havoc around the rim in the first half and made scoring quite a chore for Marc Gasol and Randolph. He finished with nine rebounds and four blocks.
Thabo Sefolosha, Oklahoma City Thunder, Shooting Guard
It would be pretty easy to forget that Thabo Sefolosha even played in this game at all. The starting shooting guard for the Thunder played just 11 minutes.
He missed his only shot from the field and finished with zero points.
Kendrick Perkins, Oklahoma City Thunder, Center
Much like Sefolosha, Kendrick Perkins didn't play many minutes despite being a starter. Unlike Sefolosha, his presence was still noticeable—for all the wrong reasons.
At the start of the third quarter, he was a huge liability on defense, as the not-so-fleet-of-foot Randolph made him look like he was stuck in mud a couple of times.
And he might've been even worse on the other end. He scored with a tip-in on OKC's first possession of the game, but that was it. His only offensive contribution was three turnovers.
It's tough to figure out how he's in the rotation at all.
Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder, Point Guard
Westbrook may have had a bit of struggle from the field, but his backup was even worse. He went 1-of-5 but still scored nine points thanks to his ability to get to the line. Another way Reggie Jackson channeled the starting point guard was in the way he rebounded, grabbing eight.
So even though his shot wasn't falling, Jackson did manage to find a way to still make some positive contributions while he was out there.
Bench, Oklahoma City Thunder
With the exception of Caron Butler, the rest of OKC's bench struggled to score. In total, they went 6-of-22 for 25 points. Butler himself was 3-of-7 for nine.
Where they were solid was on defense. In the Thunder's big first half, the second unit blocked six shots and was able to start some breaks off those plays.
Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies, Power Forward
Randolph led the Grizzlies in scoring with 21 points but couldn't buy a bucket for long stretches of the game. He finished just 7-of-21.
He was very effective on the offensive boards, though, as eight of his 11 rebounds came on that end. His energy around the rim was a big part of the Grizzlies' huge third quarter, but a little more efficiency during the rest of the game would have been nice.
Z-Bo yelling "keep fighting" to all of his teammates was great— Adam McGinnis (@adammcginnis) April 20, 2014
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies, Center
Memphis' interior struggle wasn't exclusive to Randolph. Gasol had his problems as well, as he shot 7-of-19 from the field on the way to 16 points.
Perhaps a bigger problem for Gasol was that he didn't do much to impact the game as a rebounder or defender. He finished with just six boards and zero blocks in 45 minutes.
Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies, Point Guard
For a few minutes in the third quarter, it looked like Conley's floater was going to single-handedly pull off an incredible comeback:
Mike Conley. #morefloatersthanacataract— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) April 20, 2014
The lefty point guard made three beautiful right-handed runners during a run that ultimately cut a 25-point lead all the way down to four.
Unfortunately, he just couldn't make many shots outside that run. He finished the game with 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting.
But he didn't let his poor shooting dictate his impact, as he finished the game with 11 assists.
Courtney Lee, Memphis Grizzlies, Shooting Guard
Courtney Lee didn't get a ton of looks, but he was pretty effective with the shots he did take, scoring eight points on 4-of-6 shooting.
Memphis may need more outside shooting from him throughout the rest of the series to create some more space inside for Randolph and Gasol.
Tayshaun Prince, Memphis Grizzlies, Small Forward
Prince played just four minutes in the first half, as he was dealing with a stomach bug. Like OKC's Sefolosha, he missed his only shot and finished with zero points.
Tayshaun Prince may never be heard from again— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) April 20, 2014
Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies, Shooting Guard
When Prince wasn't able to return to the game following halftime, Allen was inserted into the starting lineup for the second half.
For one quarter, the move forced on coach Dave Joerger worked brilliantly. His defense against Durant helped catapult the Grizz to the 31-13 third quarter. It also seemed to fuel his own offense, as Allen scored 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting.
Joerger asked about Tony Allen's decent offensive night: "Yeah, they don't guard him."— Royce Young (@royceyoung) April 20, 2014
The effect wore off in the fourth, though, as Durant was able to adjust and carry his team to victory.
Mike Miller, Memphis Grizzlies, Small Forward
Mike Miller is undoubtedly the Grizzlies' best shooter and the one player who can consistently stretch opposing defenses. When he's not hitting, it's easy to collapse on Randolph, Gasol and Conley in the paint.
And on Saturday, he wasn't hitting. He shot just 1-of-6 from the field and had a team-worst plus/minus of negative-21.
Bench, Memphis Grizzlies
We'll count Allen among the starters in this one. And outside of him, Coach Joerger really doesn't trust his bench. He essentially went with a seven-man rotation that included Miller and Beno Udrih as reserves. Udrih went 1-of-4 for three points.
James Johnson, Ed Davis and Kosta Koufos all got time on the floor as well, but none of them played over six minutes.
The Grizzlies ultimately lost this game because they allowed themselves to fall into such a deep hole early in the game, then used up all their energy in the third trying to come back. They'll need to bring the kind of energy they showed in that third from the opening tip for Game 2.
For OKC, continuing to run will be key. Their offense is extremely stagnant when forced to face a half-court D. So getting out on the break leads to much better looks.
The Thunder will host Game 2 Monday at 8 p.m. ET.
Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.