Gay-less Grizzlies lose
OKLAHOMA CITY—Running away with a win against a Memphis team in disarray after trading away top scorer Rudy Gay, the Oklahoma City Thunder found a way to come unhinged, too.
An outburst aimed at his own team earned all-star point guard Russell Westbrook a third-quarter benching and gave the Grizzlies a glimmer of hope before Oklahoma City closed out a 106-89 victory last night.
Westbrook then spiked the ball twice while gesturing toward Thabo Sefolosha and Kevin Durant that they needed to get open.
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 toward the locker-room.
He sat out about eight minutes before Brooks put him back in to start the fourth quarter.
Westbrook described it as “just a little miscommunication.” Brooks said it was an offensive play that went awry.
Sefolosha acted as though nothing happened.
The result was a mini-implosion by the defending Western Conference champs right in the public eye.
“It was a disagreement,” Durant said.
“This is the game of basketball,” he noted. “You have so many different emotions on one team. You’re going to have disagreements.
“It wasn’t the first. It’s not going to be the last.”
“I decided to take Russell out because we needed to calm down,” Brooks reasoned.
“Russell went in the back,” he added. “It was nothing. He just had to regroup. . . .”
Brooks finally put him back in the game to start the fourth after Memphis had 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 three-pointer in transition on consecutive possessions to bump the lead back up to 86-69 with 9:32 to go.
That all but ended the Grizzlies’ bid to come back from a 26-point deficit.
“The first half, we were a little flat, a little shell-shocked,” admitted coach Lionel Hollins.
“Everybody was trying to do too much,” he noted. “You had guys who just didn’t make any shots in the first half.
“But the second half, we played our game.”
Bayless started in Gay’s place and led Memphis with 23 points.
Golden State beat Dallas 100-97 in the only other NBA game last night.