Basketball: Adams advances in quest for NBA title

Steven Adams and Oklahoma City continued their quest for the NBA title today, beating Memphis 120-109. Photo / Getty Images.
Steven Adams and Oklahoma City continued their quest for the NBA title today, beating Memphis 120-109. Photo / Getty Images.

Steven Adams and Oklahoma City continued their quest for the NBA title today, beating Memphis 120-109 in a deciding seventh game to advance to the western conference semifinals.

Adams played 25 minutes off the bench - the most game time he has enjoyed in the playoffs - and chimed in with eight points, becoming the second New Zealander after Sean Marks to advance to the second round in the postseason.

After featuring sparingly in the first five games of the series, Adams played 20 minutes and recorded a career-high five blocks in Friday's game six, helping the Thunder earn a win that kept alive their season.

And today the rookie was again heavily involved, coming into the game early in the opening quarter after starting centre Kendrick Perkins picked up a pair of fouls. Adams played the rest of the period and threw down a spectacular dunk but couldn't prevent the Grizzlies from edging ahead.

But Oklahoma City steadily chipped away at the deficit and held a commanding advantage heading into the fourth quarter, led by 33 points from MVP-in-waiting Kevin Durant and a triple-double from point guard Russell Westbrook.

Adams finished three-of-three from the field and two-of-three from the line, ensuring he will factor in coach Scott Brooks' thinking when the Thunder take on either the Los Angeles Clippers or the Golden State Warriors in the conference semifinals, beginning at home on Tuesday (NZT).

The Thunder's progression continues a dream debut season for the 20-year-old Kiwi who, after being drafted at No 12 overall, averaged nearly 15 minutes across 81 games in the regular season, helping his side to a 59-23 record and the second seed in the west.

Adams averaged 3.3 points and 4.1 rebounds, earning the type of invaluable experience the Tall Blacks would love to lean on at the basketball world cup in September. His inclusion in the squad for Spain has yet to be confirmed but, if he is available, the seven-footer could come up against the likes of Thunder teammates Durant and Westbrook when New Zealand face the United States in pool play.

- APNZ

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