Steven Adams makes his NBA playoff debut
Kiwi rookie Steven Adams played his part in a suffocating defensive effort as the Oklahoma City Thunder opened their NBA playoff campaign with a 100-86 home victory over the Memphis Grizzlies yesterday.
Adams blocked three shots in his playoff debut as he banged bodies with Memphis' All-Star centre Marc Gasol at a raucous Chesapeake Energy Arena.
That was the statistical highlight of Adams' performance, snaring just one rebound, missing his only shot and committing five fouls in his 12 minutes on court.
But at this early stage of his career, defence and physicality are Adams' bread and butter and he helped hold the Grizzlies to just 34 first half points and 36 per cent shooting.
Former Wellington schoolboy Adams is bidding to become just the second New Zealander to win an NBA championship, behind former San Antonio Spurs big man Sean Marks.
Marks is now an assistant coach with the heavyweight Spurs.
The Grizzlies erased most of a 25-point deficit in the third quarter before Kevin Durant, the league's scoring champion, got hot.
He scored 13 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter as the Thunder drew first blood in their first-round Western Conference series.
Durant scored 11 points in a five minute surge that stretched Oklahoma City's lead from seven points to 14 and put the game out of reach.
"We just stayed together," Durant said.
"We made plays in the fourth quarter. The third quarter was tough for us, but we stayed together. We didn't stray away."
Russell Westbrook had 23 points and 10 rebounds and Serge Ibaka added 17 points and nine rebounds for the Thunder.
Zach Randolph led Memphis with 21 points and 11 rebounds, but he made just seven of 21 shots and got into foul trouble in the second half.
Mike Conley had 16 points and 11 assists, Gasol scored 16 points and Tony Allen added 13 points for the Grizzlies.
Oklahoma City was the only home team to win on the first day of the post-season, with Atlanta pulling off the biggest upset with victory at Eastern Conference top seed Indiana.
The Pacers had been expected to be too strong for a Hawks team that had lost its previous eight playoff games, but Jeff Teague led Atlanta to an important victory.
Golden State won away in a tight game against the Los Angeles Clippers, whose chances were hurt by having Blake Griffin and Chris Paul in foul trouble.
Brooklyn won by seven points at Toronto but the margin could have been far wider had the Nets not been so off-target with their three-point shooting.