The Oklahoma City Thunder advanced to the Western Conference finals with a 105-90 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 7 of their National Basketball Association playoff series.
Kevin Durant scored 39 points as Oklahoma City pulled away in the second half to win the best-of-seven second-round matchup four games to three. It was the first series of the 2011 NBA postseason to go a full seven games.
“I just wanted to be aggressive,” Durant said in a televised interview. “My teammates kept pushing, kept giving me the ball and I was able to get some good shots.”
Oklahoma, which relocated from Seattle in 2008, plays the Dallas Mavericks for a spot in the NBA Finals. It’s the franchise’s first trip to the conference finals since 1996.
The Thunder took a 42-34 halftime lead at Oklahoma City Arena, with Durant tallying 18 points to lead all scorers. He rebounded from an 11-point effort in Game 6, when Memphis won 95-83.
Durant also sparked Oklahoma City’s 14-2 scoring run late in the third quarter, contributing nine points as the fourth-seeded Thunder extended a three-point advantage to 66-51. The NBA’s leading scorer, Durant made 13 of 25 shots, while Russell Westbrook had 14 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds.
Mike Conley scored 18 points and Zach Randolph had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Memphis, which was seeking to become the first No. 8 seed to reach the Western Conference finals. The Grizzlies’ seven playoff wins set a record for an eighth-seeded team in the West, bettering the six victories of the 1993-94 Denver Nuggets.
The Western Conference finals start May 17 in Dallas. The third-seeded Mavericks have been off since May 8, when they completed a four-game sweep of the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.
The Chicago Bulls host the Miami Heat tonight in Game 1 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.