It lacked that distinct elimination drama and was without a singular defining moment, but Oklahoma City’s 15-point Game 7 win over Memphis perhaps did something equally as important—it enhanced our already bloated feelings towards Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Durant did everything we ask of a star in a big game: He took the ball to the basket, he was aggressive, and he made sure his team was going to live or die with his output. 39 points was obviously great, but it was his 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 9 trips to the line that perhaps best embodied his day, especially after the disappoint of the prior game.
Westbrook made a truce with his detractors, delivering just the fifth triple double (14 points, 10 rebounds, 14 assists) in a Game 7 ever, and yet with it he perhaps reaffirmed their feelings that he doesn’t have to shoot thirty times to have a profound impact.
The Thunder got huge contributions from two reserves in particular: Nick Collison and James Harden. Collison was terrific with 12 rebounds, 3 blocks and tough interior defense against that respected Griz frontline. Harden brings an invaluable third scoring option—his 17 points and hot shooting stretch pushed the Thunder.
What can we say about Memphis that hasn’t already been said? They owed us nothing and gave plenty. Wholly, they were terrific of course, but today lacked the energy we’ve become accustomed to in the postseason. Zach Randolph had 17 and 10 to lead them. In defeat, the best compliment available is that we’ll remember this team and their run.
OKC’s run isn’t finished yet. They’ll meet Dallas in a winnable Western Conference Finals.—Todd Spehr
Before we get into the proceedings this evening, I just want to say to Bulls fans everywhere, enjoy Taj Gibson while you can. With his performance in the Playoffs the last few games, and especially with what he did last night against Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat, kid just made himself a lot of money. Chicago won’t be able to keep him when his contract is up next year.
Nobody could’ve predicted what happened in Game 1. Most people seemed to agree that no matter how many games this series went, they would all be low-scoring, grind it out affairs. But the Bulls obviously don’t subscribe to popular opinion.
After a back and forth first half that saw both teams tied at 48 points apiece, Chicago broke the game open in the second half to the tune of 55-34 head to head points, 17-0 on second chance points, 9 offensive rebounds and only 1 turnover. The Miami Heat were eviscerated in every facet of the game in the final 24 minutes and the Chicago Bulls easily took Game 1 of the ECF by 21 points(!) with a final score of 103-82.
It was the worst loss Miami has had in the Playoffs this year (they lost by just 4 points in both the first and second rounds) and the first time they’ve trailed in a best of seven series.
Luckily for Heat fans, what the Bulls did to them in Game 1 most likely won’t be repeated in Game 2. Miami will be much more prepared, aggressive and looking to get a split in Chicago. However, the Bulls did send a very strong message to the Heat with this win that they’re not pushovers and Miami is going to have to bring it. The Heat have to forget about this game quickly and come out strong to try and win on Wednesday night and go back to Miami for Game 3 tied 1-1.—Bryan Crawford (@_BryanCrawford)