By Pete Mulroy, May 07, 2013 11:51 AM EDT
(PHOTO CREDIT: Creative Commons) Having won a Gold medal as a member of the USA Basketball Team, Kevin Durant has his sights set on an NBA Championship.
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies each won their first round playoff series in relatively convincing fashion, closing out their opponents in 6 games.
Heading into their Western Conference Semifinal showdown, both teams knew they'd be in for a grueling series with the potential to go the maximum of 7 games.
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Following a thrilling 93-91 Game 1 victory, the Oklahoma City Thunder are certainly prepared for a tough series as the No. 1 seed in the West looks to continue their march toward a second-consecutive appearance in the NBA Finals.
Game 2 is set to tip Tuesday, May 7th at 9:30pm, EDT from the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. Coverage will be available through the TNT television network.
One of the best finishers in the game, Kevin Durant guided OKC to the Game 1 victory by drilling a jumper with 11.1 seconds remaining. As clutch as they come, that game-winner was the third game-clinching bucket Durant has converted this postseason. Durant's level of success is extremely impressive when you consider he's carried the load without star point guard Russell Westbrook who is out for the remainder of the playoffs due to a knee injury.
"That's how you build a legacy. That's how you become a part of the history of this game is by making those great shots," Thunder guard Derek Fisher said to NBA.com. "Kevin, only five or six years into the league, is becoming one of those guys that we'll remember forever. It's always great to be on the same team with those kind of guys."
Despite not being able to control the duo of Durant and Martin, Memphis had their fair share of opportunities to take Game 1, something not lost on the mind of their head coach.
"They earned it. We had some plays we'd like to have back," Lionel Hollins told NBA.com reporters. "We had some opportunities we just didn't execute and Durant made some big plays. We just weren't able to sustain in the fourth quarter."
After significantly outplaying Oklahoma City in the third quarter, Memphis took a 73-64 lead into the final frame. Not able to sustain the same intensity they had entering the fourth quarter, Durant and the Thunder used a 29-18 run to tie the game, including what turned out to be the 24-year-olds game-winning basket.
Following Durant's jumper, Grizzlies forward Quincy Pondexter did have a chance to tie the game from the free throw line after drawing a foul on a three-point attempt with 1.6 seconds remaining.
With Pondexter only able to convert on 1-of-3 attempts, Durant became the hero of Game 1, leaving head coach Scott Brooks in a state of sheer appreciation for the talent of his star performer.
"He loves big moments," Brooks said of his all-star. "I'm sure he's always been that type of player from the day he picked up a basketball. He has it because he has the skill level, he has the ability to get where he wants to get to."
Brooks, Durant and the Thunder know the road to the finals will not get any easier following a grueling Game 1 victory but with the ability for guys like Kevin Durant to closeout games, Oklahoma City may in fact find themselves playing for a title in a few short weeks.
Catch Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, May 7th at 9:30pm, EDT. The game can be seen on the TNT television network.
Watch Highlights from OKC's Thrilling Game 1 Victory Over the Grizzlies: