OKLAHOMA CITY – Kevin Durant scored 27 points, Russell Westbrook added 21 points and nine assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat Memphis 106-89 on Thursday night in the Grizzlies’ first game since trading their top scorer, Rudy Gay.
Memphis struggled mightily in the first half and trailed by 26 in the third quarter before a mini-implosion by the Thunder that featured Westbrook getting benched after a dust-up with his teammates.
It still didn’t provide a big enough opening for the Grizzlies, who were playing short-handed while waiting for trade acquisitions Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye and Ed Davis to arrive and pass physicals.
Jerryd Bayless led Memphis with 23 points. Zach Randolph missed his first 10 shots, and wound up with nine points and 19 rebounds.
The Grizzlies were already short on numbers after dealing away reserves Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby for Jon Leuer about a week earlier, and with Quincy Pondexter out with a sprained ligament in his left knee.
That left just nine healthy players for Memphis, and Leuer didn’t get into the game until it was out of hand in the final five minutes.
Just when Oklahoma City seemed to be firmly in control, Westbrook started sniping with his teammates after a possession when he posted up along the left side of the lane and eventually got called for a turnover when Bayless stuck with him on defense for five seconds. Westbrook then spiked the ball twice while gesturing toward Thabo Sefolosha and Durant that they needed to get open better.
He then hollered toward Coach Scott Brooks on the bench.
Memphis followed his outburst with 10 straight points to make it a game again, with Westbrook getting an early hook during the stretch and heading down the tunnel to the locker room.
Brooks finally put him back in the game to start the fourth quarter after Memphis pulled to 77-67 in the final minute of the third quarter. Westbrook hit a pull-up jumper and set up Kevin Martin for a 3-pointer in transition on consecutive possessions to bump the lead back to 86-69 with 9:32 remaining.
That all but ended the Grizzlies’ comeback bid.
RAPTORS: Coach Dwane Casey was fined $25,000 by the NBA for criticizing officials Wednesday night after a loss at Atlanta.
In the closing seconds of the 93-92 loss, DeMar DeRozan of Toronto grabbed the rebound of a missed shot by teammate Alan Anderson and had his attempt under the basket blocked by Al Horford. There was apparent contact but no foul was called.
TIMBERWOLVES: Guard Brandon Roy had a setback with his surgically repaired right knee, casting further doubt on his chances of resuming a career derailed by knee problems.