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OKLAHOMA CITY — Zach Randolph and the Memphis Grizzlies powered their way to another playoff upset — not that he considers it one.
Randolph had a playoff career-high 34 points and 10 rebounds, Marc Gasol added 20 points and 13 boards, and the Grizzlies outmatched the Oklahoma City Thunder inside for a 114-101 victory in the opening game of the Western Conference semifinals Sunday.
“We believe,” Randolph said. “We definitely believe. Our confidence is up high. I tell the guys we can compete and play with anybody.”
Just as they did in a first-round upset of top-seeded San Antonio, Randolph and Gasol provided enough punch to give eighth-seeded Memphis a road victory in Game 1.
Randolph and Gasol each scored 20 points in the same regular-season game only once this season, but did it in Game 1 against the Spurs and again to negate the Thunder’s home-court advantage right from the start.
“I think we always try to do that. The thing is that it’s not always possible,” Gasol said. “We always try to come out and execute and play the right way. It’s not always possible. Teams are going to adjust, and they’re going to do something different.
“We’ve got to keep being hungry, keep being unselfish offensively and defensively and keep playing the right way.”
Game 2 is Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 33 points and 11 rebounds. Russell Westbrook scored 29, but the all-star tandem couldn’t overcome a big advantage in the paint for Memphis.
Randolph had two games with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in the regular season against the Thunder, as Memphis won the series 3-1. And he was at it again from the tip, scoring the Grizzlies’ first seven points to provide them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“You can’t stop him. You’ve got to make them shoot tough shots like he’s been doing, but if he’s making them, he’s tough to stop,” Durant said.
“He’s an animal.”
Durant went on to say that he considers Randolph, a 10th-year veteran who’s bounced around the league with no postseason success until this year, to be “the best power forward in the league.”
“I’ve got to agree with that. Thanks, KD,” Randolph said with a smile. “I appreciate that.”
Before this year, Randolph hadn’t made the playoffs since his second year in the league with Portland in 2003 and — like the Grizzlies — had never won a postseason series before. All that is changing now for Randolph, an all-star choice last season who was left out of the showcase this year.