Kevin Durant scored 36 points and Russell Westbrook nearly had another triple-double, with 23, 13 assists and eight rebounds as the Thunder beat the Clippers 118-112 to take a 2-1 series lead on Friday.
Westbrook: ‘We get the ball to Kevin and he does what he does’ as Thunder take series lead
Western Conference semi-finals
Thunder 118, Clippers 112 (Thunder lead series 2-1)
Neither team budged through three tight quarters. Then the Thunder went to a smaller line-up in the fourth and the Clippers’ defence shrivelled.
Oklahoma City couldn’t be stopped in the final 12 minutes and went on to a 118-112 victory Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference semi-finals.
Kevin Durant scored 36 points, Russell Westbrook added 23 points and 13 assists, and Serge Ibaka, despite early foul trouble, had 20 points for the Thunder in a game that neither team ever led by double digits.
The Thunder have won two straight since getting blown out by 17 points in Game 1 at home.
“That loss definitely wasn’t our brand of basketball,” Durant said. “The first game they picked us apart. We don’t want to get beat like that again.”
Blake Griffin scored 34 points, and Chris Paul added 21 points and 16 assists for the Clippers, who saw their four-point lead disappear for good early in the fourth quarter. Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford added 20 points.
“They got everything,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “They got threes, layups, key second shots. Down the stretch, they made every big play. We had shots, too, and they didn’t go in. We put way too much pressure on our offence because our defence wasn’t working.”
Oklahoma City led 113-107 on Durant’s turnaround jumper with 1:23 left. It followed Westbrook’s three-pointer after the Clippers had closed within 108-107 when Griffin muscled in for a layup.
“We did a good job of weathering storms throughout the game and sticking together,” Durant said. “We’re going to have to do that even more next game if we want to win. It’s probably going to be the toughest game of the series.”
Game 4 is Sunday at Staples Center.
The Thunder shot 56 per cent, and controlled the paint and fastbreak points against a Clippers team that never got into their favoured run-and-gun mode.
“We stayed small and they had some tough decisions to make on who to put their big on,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “In the fourth quarter our defence went up another level. Russell was finding guys. Everybody chipped in to help us win.”
JJ Redick, who got off to a hot start in Game 2, was held to five points on 1-of-6 shooting. DeAndre Jordan was never a factor for the Clippers either, with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Matt Barnes gave them a lift with 14 points.
The Thunder gradually pulled away in the fourth, scoring eight straight points, including Durant’s three-point play, to take the lead for good.
“When it’s time to score, we get the ball to Kevin and he does what he does,” said Westbrook, who had eight rebounds, just missing his fourth triple-double in his last six play-off games.
Former Clipper Caron Butler hit three three-pointers to give his team the lead and then extend it. He had a leading nine rebounds. Every Thunder player pulled down at least one board to outrebound the Clippers for the third straight game, 44-33.
“Early I thought we allowed too many easy baskets, dunks, layups,” Griffin said. “We got to win the battle on the boards. We just did a poor job of putting a body on people.”
Emotions boiled in the third, with double technicals called on Barnes and Kendrick Perkins, who stared hard at each other. Perkins took a step toward Barnes but got pushed away by Westbrook. By then, Griffin was already bloodied. He got hit in the face by Ibaka, but the only call by the referees was a three-second violation on the Clippers.
“We’re both fighting for something. It’s going to get chippy out there,” Butler said. “We laid an egg in Game 1 but we came out fighting today. We had the right mindset and disposition.”
Griffin held a towel to his gushing nose and changed his jersey during a timeout. He took up his case with the referee before play resumed to no avail.
“I took an elbow to the nose,” he said. “When I asked him about it, he said I ran my face into his elbow, so I got to be careful where I put my face.”
Eastern Conference semi-finals
Pacers 85, Wizards 63 (Pacers lead series 2-1)
Indiana stormed back for a second straight win after laying a dud in Game 1, with Paul George scoring 23 points, pulling eight rebounds and adding four assists, three steals and a block.
The Pacers only shot 41.9 per cent as a team, but held Washington to a horrendous 32.9 per cent mark and a 63-point total that registered as the fourth lowest in NBA play-off history during the shot clock era. It was also a franchise low for the Wizards.
The main culprits included Nene and Marcin Gortat, who, after strong opening games to this series, combined to shoot 5-of-21 and score 12 points. The entire Washington bench combined to go 3-for-12 and score just eight points and Bradley Beal shot 6-of-19 en route to 16 points.
John Wall and Trevor Ariza proved the lone bright spots, with Wall going for 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting and Trevor Ariza converting 4-of-8 shots for 12 points and 15 rebounds.
Roy Hibbert continued to bounce back from a miserable Game 1 for the Pacers, scoring 14 points, grabbing five rebounds and blocking three shots while shooting 6-for-9.
David West added 12 points and Luis Scola scored 11 in 15 minutes off the bench.
Game 4 is on Sunday in Washington, DC.
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