Indicative of Gasol's willingness to do anything for a victory was a
play with 4:28 left in the game. With the Grizzlies leading by five,
he took a charge from Thunder forward Kevin Durant.
"In the first half, I thought we got out of the way on four or five
opportunities to take charges," Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said.
"I was not real happy with that."
Durant, the NBA's leading scorer, finished with 37 points and said
he told Gasol "welcome back" even though "I usually don't talk to
the opposing team at all."
With the Thunder down by three points near game's end, Durant
started driving the lane. He looked to have room for an easy floater
if not a good chance to finish at the rim. Durant passed to forward
Serge Ibaka in the corner for a wide-open 3-point attempt that Ibaka
The Grizzlies got the rebound with 10.6 seconds left and hung on to
send Oklahoma City (28-10) to its fifth loss in eight games.
Asked if he was fine with Durant passing in that situation, Thunder
coach Scott Brooks said: "Absolutely. That's one thing I love about
KD. He makes the right play."
Shooting guard Courtney Lee led Memphis (18-19) with a season-high
24 points. Power forward Zach Randolph had 23 points and 13
rebounds, and point guard Mike Conley finished with 19 points and
Even so, all the focus was on Gasol. It mattered not that he only
had 12 points (shooting 3-for-7 from the floor) and four rebounds in
24 minutes. Memphis went 10-13 without him. He practiced with
contact for the first time Monday.
"It was a surprise to us all when we found out he was playing,"
Unable to even run a couple of weeks ago, Gasol had a simple
explanation for his recovery going into fast-forward mode: "the
More seriously, he said that when doctors, trainers, Joerger and he
looked at the upcoming schedule, they saw there would not be much
practice time and settled on "using games as a way to get back."
[to top of second column]
The Thunder led 47-43 at halftime, and they were ahead 53-50
with 8:40 to play in the third quarter. Gasol then hit a short
turnaround fadeaway and followed with two made free throws to
give Memphis a 54-53 lead with 7:37 left in the third. Oklahoma
City was never in front again.
Point guard Reggie Jackson scored 17 points but committed seven
of Oklahoma City's 19 turnovers. Ibaka had 11 points, nine
rebounds and four blocks.
Lee scored 14 points in the first quarter, helping Memphis get
out to a 24-12 lead with just under a minute to play in the
"He was the wild card that we didn't want to happen," Brooks
Memphis improved to 8-4 over its past 12 games and it won three
straight for the first time since sweeping a four-game road trip
Gasol was still playing then, and two key additions — Lee and
forward James Johnson, an NBA Development League signee — had
not yet joined the team.
"They're unselfish," Gasol said. "They fit right in."
The Thunder had a nine-game winning streak in December, but
since the run ended with a loss to the Toronto Raptors on Dec.
22, they are 6-6. All-Star point guard Kevin Westbrook missed
the past 13 games with a knee injury that led to surgery.
"We are (ticked) off that we lost the game," Durant said. "We
had a chance to win no matter who was on the court."
NOTES: Thunder F Kevin Durant's league-leading 29.6 scoring
average heading into the game was far ahead of the second-best
average, 26.2 for the New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony. Durant
also is averaging career highs in rebounding (8.2) and assists
(4.9). He has had nine games with 30 or more points and at least
10 rebounds this season. ... Despite averaging 27.3 points, 8.3
assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.33 steals in three games and 40.0
minutes, Memphis PG Mike Conley lost out on Western Conference
Player of the Week honors to Kings C DeMarcus Cousins. ...
Tuesday marked the Grizzlies' 22nd home game, tied with
Sacramento for the most in the NBA this season. Both teams have
losing home records. Memphis improved to 10-12 at home.
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