OKLAHOMA CITY — Down by one in the final minute, the Oklahoma City’s Derek Fisher turned a tough situation for the Thunder into the worst-case scenario for the Grizzlies.
Fisher poked the ball away from Memphis’ Mike Conley, springing three-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant into the open court with a chance to put the Thunder on top.
Durant pulled up and connected on a jumper with 11.1 seconds left for the last of his 35 points, lifting the Thunder to a 93-91 victory over the Grizzlies on Sunday in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.
“I just wanted to get up the floor as quick as possible and find a shot,” said Durant, who finished second in league MVP voting announced Sunday. “That was the only shot I could find and, by the grace of God, it went in.”
Game 2 is Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.
Thabo Sefolosha kept the Grizzlies from going back ahead, deflecting a pass that Conley was able to corral — but only after diving out of bounds. Reggie Jackson then hit a pair of free throws for a three-point lead, and Quincy Pondexter couldn’t force overtime after getting fouled while attempting a 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds left.
Pondexter, a 72 percent career free-throw shooter, missed the first free throw. He made his second attempt before intentionally missing the third, but Durant swatted the rebound away and Marc Gasol’s attempt at a buzzer-beater was late.
“We couldn’t get stops. That’s why we lost,” said Gasol, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds. “We didn’t lose because of free throws.”
Kevin Martin scored 25 for Oklahoma City, which trailed for much of the game but was able to avoid repeating its Game 1 loss from when these two teams met in the West semifinals two years ago. The Thunder were able to rally and win that series in seven.
Fisher, a five-time NBA champion who only joined the Thunder after asking to be released by Dallas for family reasons earlier in the season, turned this game around with his defense.
Conley had gotten past him on a drive to the basket when Fisher reached in from behind and knocked the ball free. It was just the stop Oklahoma City needed.
“He makes plays, whether it’s tipping the ball out and getting a steal or hitting the big shot to start the fourth,” Durant said. “Or just his leadership in the huddles and the locker room is big for us. We need that.”
Zach Randolph chipped in 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Grizzlies, and Pondexter and Conley scored 13 apiece. As a team, Memphis went 14 for 24 on free throws. Oklahoma City, which was the league’s top foul shooting team with the third-best mark in NBA history, was 22 of 25.
“Obviously, we have to make free throws, especially myself,” said Pondexter, who was slapped on his right arm by Jackson on his attempt at the tying 3-pointer. “We’ve just got to take this as a learning experience and move on.”
Pacers 102, Knicks 95
NEW YORK — David West scored 20 points, Paul George added 19 and the Indiana Pacers beat the New York Knicks on Sunday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
D.J. Augustin had 16 points for the Pacers, who built a 16-point lead while Carmelo Anthony was on the bench in foul trouble in the third quarter, and easily held on to spoil the Knicks’ first second-round game since 2000.
“I thought guys did a good job just putting them on their heels,” West said. “We were attacking, we were aggressive.”
Anthony finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds, but was frustrated by the Pacers’ rugged defense and by the referees. He shot 10 of 28 from the field and was perhaps thrown out of sync having to defend West, a natural power forward, inside.
Game 2 is here Tuesday night, and then the series takes a lengthy break before Game 3 on Saturday in Indiana.
The Pacers, who allowed the second-fewest points per game and the lowest field goal percentage in the league during the regular season, mixed in solid offense as well. They outscored New York 59-38 across the middle two quarters and were comfortably ahead throughout the fourth.