MEMPHIS (AFP) - Kevin Durant shook off criticism to score 36 points on Thursday as the Oklahoma City Thunder extended their NBA season with an emphatic 104-84 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Thunder, facing elimination in the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series, thumped the Grizzlies to level the set at three games apiece.
The decisive game seven will be in Oklahoma City on Saturday, when the Los Angeles Clippers will host the Golden State Warriors in a winner-take-all game seven after the Warriors staved off elimination in their first-round series with a 100-99 triumph in Oakland.
Stephen Curry scored 24 points and handed out nine assists for the Warriors.
Andre Iguodala added 15 points and Draymond Green finished with 14 points, 14 rebounds, five steals and four assists for Golden State, who overcame a lackluster 39.3 per cent shooting from the field.
Jamal Crawford scored 19 points off the bench and Matt Barnes added 18 points and 11 assists for the Clippers, whose play-off campaign has been shadowed by the controversy surrounding owner Donald Sterling.
Sterling was banned for life from the NBA and fined US$2.5 million (S$3.1 million) on Tuesday for racist remarks that became public at the weekend. On Thursday, NBA owners began the process of trying to force him to sell the team.
In Oklahoma City, where The Oklahoman newspaper Thursday ran a headline dubbing Durant "Mr Unreliable" in the wake of some sub-par scoring performances in this series.
Readers were so irked that the newspaper apologised, saying the headline "missed the mark".
It may have hit home with Durant, who said before the game he needed to be more aggressive.
Durant, the NBA regular-season scoring champion and front-runner for Most Valuable Player honours, did just that, scoring 14 points in the first quarter alone as the Thunder seized control of the contest.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said the headline flap "had no bearing on Kevin".
"He doesn't need outside influences to motivate him. You don't get to this level as an NBA player as he is to have other people motivate you. He's self-motivated."
With their season on the brink, all of the Thunder players were.
They led 56-41 at half-time and kept the Grizzlies on their heels throughout the second half. Their decisive win was the first game in the series not to go to overtime.
Durant also pulled down 10 rebounds and made 14 of his 15 free throw attempts.
Russell Westbrook added 25 points for Oklahoma City, whose last first-round play-off exit was in 2010.
Memphis shot just 37.3 per cent from the field.
Marc Gasol's 17 points led Memphis, who who also got 16 points and eight rebounds from Zach Randolph.
The rest of the Grizzlies starters combined to shoot just four-of-18 from the field.
Adding to the Grizzlies' worries, Mike Conley departed in the third quarter with a right hamstring strain.
He returned in the fourth quarter but quickly left again, unable to continue.