OKLAHOMA CITY -- The new kids in town are trying to take over the Western Conference.
The Memphis Grizzlies already knocked out the top-seeded Spurs and will now face the Oklahoma City Thunder in a series that ensures one of the NBA's rising young teams will make it to the conference finals.
The Thunder and Grizzlies were the league's two youngest teams at the start of last season, then improved their win totals more than any other teams. That rapid ascent has carried both into the second round of the playoffs, with Game 1 Sunday in Oklahoma City.
"We're both bad teams that have risen up and become good teams," Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said Saturday. But who would have ever believed it just two years ago? The Thunder started out that season 3-29 and were on pace for the worst season in NBA history before a strong finish left them with 23 wins in their first season after relocating from Seattle to Oklahoma City. Memphis finished that year with 24 wins and started the next one 1-8.
Both fired their coaches during the 2008-09 season and hired new ones.
NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant scored 14 of his 41 points in the final 4 minutes of Game 5 to lead Oklahoma City back from a nine-point deficit and finish off Denver. Zach Randolph scored 17 of his 31 in the fourth quarter of the clinching Game 6 against San Antonio.
The Grizzlies got the better of the Thunder in the regular season, winning the series 3-1 as Randolph averaged 26.5 points and 13 rebounds.