By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Coach Lionel Hollins doesn't like to talk about how tough his team is. He'd rather let Memphis show it on the court.
The Memphis Grizzlies did just that against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday. They battered, bruised and physically outplayed the defending Western Conference Champions on their way to a 107-97 victory at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
"It's definitely emotional, it's definitely tough," Memphis guard Quincy Pondexter said. "But that's the way we like to play basketball. We have some real gritty and grimy guys out there. That's the way we win."
In a game that featured two teams that pride themselves on how hard they play, it was Memphis (6-1) which came up with the big defensive stands and huge shots in the fourth quarter every time Oklahoma City (6-3) made a run.
After getting the lead down to 97-89 with more than four minutes left, it looked like Oklahoma City was set to take off. But Memphis just went to post players Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph on consecutive trips and they restored order. The Thunder had no answer and fans began to stream out of the building.
"Our intensity and our will, it just kept prevailing," Hollins said. "We stopped them three times in a row. That is the exactly the mental toughness, to execute after they made a score. We just did the little things and kept them off balance by coming back and executing on offense. We just had control of the game in the second half."
Rudy Gay was unstoppable for Memphis. He poured in 28 points with Kevin Durant guarding him the entire night. He was 12 of 21 from the floor, hauled in six rebounds and had five assists.
"He got it going," Hollins said. "I could tell he was hot. We just kept giving him the ball and letting him go. Durant played a ton of minutes and got a little tired."
Randolph added 20 points and 11 rebounds before he was tossed out of the game after getting into an altercation with the Thunder's Kendrick Perkins.
Durant posted 34 points in the loss. Russell Westbrook chipped in with 17 points, 13 assists and six boards.
Oklahoma City's bench was outscored 31-13. Kevin Martin was held to 7 points on four shots.
"We don't want to go into a game and only give (Martin) four shots," Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "He's too good of a scorer and too good of a guy who can move without the ball.
"We didn't do a good job. I didn't do a good job and he also has to do a better job."
Thabo Sefolosha sparked the Thunder early with two 3-pointers as they took a 10-point lead in the first quarter. But Memphis slowly closed the gap in the second period.
Even though the Grizzlies weren't shooting well from the field, they were able to claw back and tied the game at 36-36 with 6:35 left in the first half. Memphis outscored Oklahoma City 36-15 in the second quarter.
Coming out of halftime, Memphis didn't let up as Randolph began to exert himself. That included grabbing a rebound over Perkins and putting it back up. He did the same thing the next time down court as the Grizzlies increased their lead to 65-49.
The intensity picked up as the teams exchanged verbal shots and several stare downs after each basket. This seemed to get Oklahoma City riled up and it was able to close the gap to 81-71 heading into the fourth.
"The second quarter, they just went on a tear," Durant said. "They made a lot of tough shots tonight. Tough contested 2s. That's what we hang out hat on, making them shoot tough shots. We dug ourselves a hole and it's tough to fight back."
NOTES : The Grizzlies are the second-ranked defense in the league this season in terms of point differential at 9.0. They are six points behind No. 1 New York and just ahead of the L.A. Clippers and Oklahoma City. Last season Memphis was ranked No. 7 and ninth in 2010-11. ... The NBA released its 2013 NBA All-Star Ballots and it's full of Oklahoma City Thunder players. Kevin Durant, Kevin Martin, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Russell Westbrook appear on the Western Conference ballot. ...Players and coaches around the NBA are mourning the death Memphis assistant general manager Kenny Williamson who died of cancer Tuesday. The 65-year old Williamson, who was known as
"Eggman," was in his sixth season with the Grizzlies. He also had stints with Charlotte, New York and worked 21 years as an assistant college coach for various schools. "I've known Eggman for a while," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "He was always great to me. He was a special man in this league. He seems to have friends wherever he has gone. He will definitely be missed."