Just as Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant has re-discovered his scoring touch, the Memphis Grizzlies have lost their leading scorer for Saturday’s Game Seven at Chesapeake Energy Arena .
Memphis forward Zach Randolph was suspended by the NBA for the deciding game for punching Thunder center Steven Adams in the jaw in Game Six. Randolph has powered the Grizzlies offense for 18.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in the series, and now the offensive load will fall on point guard Mike Conley Jr. and center Marc Gasol.
A hamstring strain limited Conley Jr. to five points and six assists in 28 minutes in Game Six when Memphis could have eliminated the Thunder for the second straight year, but he is expected to play in Game Seven especially with Randolph now out. Reserve point guard Beno Udrih should also play big minutes with Conley Jr. limping.
Durant lit up the Grizzlies typically stout defense for 36 points and 10 rebounds in the Thunder’s 104-84 victory in Game Six which forced Saturday’s pivotal matchup.
Durant responded to The Oklahoman’s headline of “Mr. Unreliable” after Game Five’s loss, and now the Thunder are in position to make the Western Conference semifinals for the fourth straight year.
It was really the first criticism Durant has received since guiding the Thunder to the playoffs for the last five years, but it was more a call to take the offense over from guard Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook has averaged 25.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game during the series, but is still shooting 35.6 percent from the floor, including 20 percent from three.
The Grizzlies will need the hampered Conley Jr. in order to keep Westbrook in check, and then for shooting guard Tony Allen and forward Tayshaun Prince to at least limit Durant.
It’s unclear who will start in place of Randolph, but fourth-year forward James Johnson came thru with 15 points and five rebounds in only 18 minutes played in Game Six.
This is the second Game Seven between these rivals, with Oklahoma City winning the first 105-90 in 2011 behind 39 points off 13-for-25 shooting from Durant.
Start Time: 8 p.m. EST
TV Channel: TNT
Live Stream Info: A live online stream can be watched at TNT Overtime
Betting Odds: OKC -7.5
Over/Under: 185 points
Prediction: OKC over Memphis 95-90