Sports News: Grizzlies Force Game 7 with Win Over Thunder; 1st Game 7 Ever For the Griz

The Grizzlies may have finally figured out how to keep the Oklahoma City Thunder from smothering Zach Randolph.O.J. Mayo moved back into the starting lineup, and his scoring threat from the outside gave Randolph enough room to score 30 points and grab 13 rebounds Friday night as the Grizzlies avoided elimination by beating the Thunder 95-83 to push their Western Conference semifinal to a deciding Game 7.

“It definitely made a difference,” Randolph said. “O.J. can knock down some shots from the outside. It opened up a little bit tonight in the paint. We had great spacing. They’ve got to guard our perimeters, Mike [Conley] and O.J., so it definitely did make a difference tonight.”

Mayo moved from the starting lineup to the bench at the start of January, though he did start the final two games of the regular season with the Grizzlies resting for the postseason. But the Thunder had held Randolph to 31.9 percent shooting since he scored 34 points in Game 1 of this series, so coach Lionel Hollins started Mayo in place of Sam Young.

“They were just clamping down on Zach with two or three guys,” Hollins said. “We felt like if we put a shooter out there they would have to honor him, and they did. Juice got some shots early on. He got some drives. You have to have some balance outside as well as inside. I just felt like in my gut that was the move to make.”

Now the Grizzlies and Thunder will play the first Game 7 in these NBA playoffs on Sunday with the winner advancing to face the well-rested Dallas Mavericks in the West finals.

“This is where we want to be playing, Game 7, that one game to get to the Western Conference finals,” Randolph said. “It’s important. I feel good, but the job ain’t done yet. We know it’s going to be tough going to Oklahoma trying to win that game. We believe we can do it, and we’re committed.”

The Grizzlies had never won a game before when facing elimination, but that was back in 2004, 2005 and 2006, when they were swept out of the postseason each of those years. These Grizzlies are having not only the best playoff run in franchise history, but they now have won more games this postseason than any other No. 8 seed from the West.