The 2011 NBA playoffs have contained quite a few remarkable things. So far, they have included the downfall of the Lakers, Celtics and Spurs, the rise of the Heat, Thunder, Mavericks and Grizzlies, and everything in between. But every series has ended before it reached reach the limit, as every winner has advanced without having to face a Game 7. But that will finally change on Sunday with the NBA’s first Game 7 since last season’s finals in Los Angeles.
The year’s first decisive playoff game will only be in the second round and is held in a new location. But Oklahoma City didn’t have to host another battle against Memphis, as the Thunder looked ready to finish the Grizzlies off on Friday — at least for a half.
After pulling out an epic triple-overtime win on Monday, and a blowout on Wednesday, Oklahoma City kept the momentum going with a dominant first half on Friday. But after falling behind by 10 at halftime, Memphis and Zach Randolph turned on the switch.
As he did most of the time against the Spurs, Randolph took over by the fourth quarter, and ended the night with 30 points and 13 rebounds. On the flip side, Kevin Durant only mustered 11 points, with a 3-for-14 shooting night. With his recent struggles, and questions about his amount of shots, Durant will have all the pressure on him for Game 7.
The Grizzlies stayed alive by outscoring the Thunder by 51-29 in the second half, en route to a deceptively easy 95-83 win. As such, the NBA postseason has now truly gotten under way since the playoffs don’t really start until there is a seventh game.
The NHL has been under way for some time by those standards, with five seventh games in its first two rounds. In fact, it even had the Blackhawks and Red Wings nearly come back from a 3-0 deficit before coming up short in the end. But in basketball, the closest thing to a big comeback would be Memphis’s rally from a 3-2 deficit, if it completes the rally on Sunday.
There is no action on tap today, yet Sunday’s schedule stands to be quite unique. It will bring the official end of the second round, with the final Thunder-Grizzlies showdown, then the beginning of the third round, with the first Heat-Bulls conference finals battle at night.
But while Miami and Chicago are starting their third round on short rest, Dallas has been waiting nearly a week for its next opponent. Yet the Mavericks will finally get their Western Conference finals opponent on Sunday, after the Thunder and Grizzlies meet one final time at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.
NBA.com- “2011 Playoffs Schedule”
Yahoo Sports- “Grizzlies push Thunder back to OKC for Game 7”