NBA

Marc Gasol’s Grizzlies reach conference final for first time

Spanish center helps Memphis overcome Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1 in Western semifinal playoff series

Marc Gasol during the fifth game against Oklahoma City Thunder.
Marc Gasol during the fifth game against Oklahoma City Thunder.LARRY W. SMITH / EFE

Marc Gasol’s Memphis Grizzlies have reached the NBA’s Western Conference final for the first time in the franchise’s history after rounding off a resounding 4-1 series win over Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.

On a miserable night for Thunder star Kevin Durant, who ended up with 21 points on 5-for-21 shooting, Memphis had controlled the match in Oklahoma throughout, with Gasol scoring to make it 79-85 to the visitor with 25 seconds on the clock.

However, a Reggie Jackson three-pointer brought Thunder back into the game and when Grizzlies’ Zach Randolph missed twice from the free-throw line, Durant had one last chance to keep Oklahoma in the playoffs by forcing overtime. But the small forward missed with three seconds remaining and Memphis ran out an 84-88 winner.

The younger brother of the LA Lakers’ Pau Gasol, whose playoff season was short and best forgotten, Catalan Marc Gasol has now led the Grizzlies to its best-ever playoff performance, having twice overcome a home-court disadvantage to dispatch the Los Angeles Clippers and now Oklahoma City Thunder.

The center ended Wednesday night’s game with 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. Gasol’s teammate in Spain’s national side, Serge Ibaka, racked up 17 points and eight rebounds for the Thunder before fouling out in the closing stages. Memphis will play either San Antonio Spurs or Golden state Warriors in the conference final.

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