(Reuters) - A day after controversially trading away top-scorer Rudy Gay, the Memphis Grizzlies were humbled 106-89 at Oklahoma City on Thursday as the Thunder stayed firmly in the hunt to be best in the west.
In a battle of NBA title contenders from the Western Conference, the second-best Thunder improved to 35-11 with the rout, while questions about whether the fourth-placed Grizzlies can contend without Gay will remain as they fell to 29-16.
Gay was shipped to Toronto as part of a multi-player and team trade on Wednesday to save Memphis money and avoid the payment of luxury taxes but it could dampen the team’s playoff hopes.
Their cause as further undermined as they were also without trade acquisitions Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye and Ed Davis, who are yet to arrive and pass physicals.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 27 points while an emotional Russell Westbrook contributed 21 despite spending time in the locker-room cooling off after a disagreement with team mate Thabo Sefolosha.
“Throughout the game you’re going to have some ups and downs and Russell is so emotional, he wants to win so bad, he wants to give it all for our team,” Durant told reporters of the mid-game blow-up he tried to diffuse.
”It’s just a bump in the road, but he’s (Westbrook) got to keep being himself and we’ll be fine.
“It was a good win. We had some days off to refresh our legs and we were passing the basketball really well. We’ve got to continue to do that.”
Jerryd Bayless top-scored for the Grizzlies with 23 points.
Reporting by Ben Everill in Los Angeles; editing by Nick Mulvenney/John O'Brien