Published January 13, 2015
There will be a new Western Conference champion after the Memphis Grizzlies eliminated the Oklahoma City Thunder in another close battle at Chesapeake Energy Arena Wednesday.
The Grizzlies used their stout defense and double-doubles from Zach Randolph and Mike Conley to take Game 5, 88-84, and advance to the franchise's first conference final.
Randolph poured in 28 points and grabbed 14 rebounds but missed two late free throws with the Grizzlies holding a two-point lead.
Kevin Durant had a chance to tie the game with time winding down and missed an open 16-footer before Tony Allen sealed the outcome at the foul line.
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 the opener.
Durant, relied on more heavily after All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook went down with a knee injury last round, felt the burden in the ouster as he connected on just 5-of-21 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."
Oklahoma City, the West's top seed, averaged a mere 89.6 points in the series -- 16.1 points less than its regular season average.
The Thunder trailed by as many as 14 points in the third quarter but pulled within 64-62 entering the fourth.
Memphis, behind its three players on the NBA All-Defensive Teams, clamped down from there as it forced Oklahoma City to miss eight of its first nine shots in the final stanza while doing just enough on the other end to extend the lead.
Quincy Pondexter hit a corner 3-pointer during a quarter-opening 12-2 run, while Randolph added seven points, including two free throws that resulted in a 76-64 Grizzlies cushion at the midway point.
One final push cut Oklahoma City's deficit to 80-75 down the stretch before Allen got behind the Thunder's defense and put in a layup while being hit by Serge Ibaka, who fouled out with 17 points and eight rebounds.
Allen made the ensuing free throw with 1:26 remaining for an 83-75 Memphis edge, and Marc Gasol answered consecutive Nick Collison buckets with a 19- footer from the top of the key with 27.1 seconds to play.
Randolph shot just 1-of-4 from the foul line over the final 19.4 seconds, and two free throws by Kevin Martin and a Reggie Jackson 3-pointer had Oklahoma City as close as 86-84.
After Randolph missed a pair from the stripe with 11.3 ticks left, Durant dribbled past Allen and was off the mark on his open look from just above the left elbow to essentially end the Thunder's season.
"That's the shot we wanted," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. "I would live with that shot 100 times out of 100 times."
Martin's fastbreak dunk in the closing seconds of the first quarter gave Oklahoma City a 23-18 lead.
The Thunder scored just 15 points in the second quarter, however, and failed to hit a field goal over the final 6:13. The Grizzlies' 14-3 run to end the half had them on top by a 50-38 margin.
Early in the third, Tayshaun Prince threw down a tomahawk dunk over three defenders for Memphis' biggest lead, 60-46, but the Thunder clawed back with 16 of the 20 points scored over the final six-plus minutes of the quarter.
During the flurry, Allen was hit with a technical foul while on the bench when he inadvertently threw a T-shirt onto the court while Derek Fisher was attempting a 3-pointer. Fisher was credited with a make even though he missed the shot, and the momentum swung towards Oklahoma City.
Memphis, which improved to 3-3 all-time in closeout playoff games, made up for its 37 percent shooting by making 25-of-29 from the foul line ... Durant has scored 20-plus points in 37 consecutive playoff games ... The Thunder knocked out the Grizzlies in the conference semis two seasons ago ... There were seven lead changes, upping the series total to 69 ... Allen and Gasol chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively ... Jackson logged 16 points, nine rebounds and five assists.