Thunder eliminate Clippers
LOS ANGELES—When the Oklahoma City Thunder were down by 16 points and struggling to make any shot early in Game 6, they looked all but ready to fold up and head home for a series-deciding finale.
Instead, Kevin Durant shouldered the Thunder and carried them into the fourth quarter, where they demonstrated the poise of a championship contender.
Russell Westbrook overcame a slow start to finish with 19 points and 12 assists as the Thunder reached the conference final for the third time in four years—closing out L.A. with two-straight wins.
Two days after the Thunder erased a late 13-point deficit to win Game 5, the Thunder rallied from that early deficit and maintained their lead throughout the fourth quarter—shaking off any memories of their Game 4 collapse on the same Staples Center court.
“Experience has helped us out a lot, just being with each other for so long,” Durant noted.
“We’ve got a long ways to go. We definitely can get better,” he stressed.
“This is definitely a series that pushed us to the brink,” Durant added. “We were in a tough spot.
“[But] we stayed together and persevered.”
The league MVP hit five three-pointers while Reggie Jackson added 14 points for Oklahoma City, which will face the Spurs in a rematch of the West’s last two champions.
That series begins Monday night in San Antonio.
Chris Paul had 25 points and 11 assists, while Blake Griffin had 22 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists before fouling out, as the Clippers’ exhausting post-season ended in disappointment.
Perhaps the cumulative pressure of two playoff series amid the distractions of owner Donald Sterling’s lifetime ban finally cost the two-time Pacific Division champion Clippers, who couldn’t keep up late.
Or perhaps Durant is just that good.
“We did a great job of sticking together,” Westbrook said.
“Kevin did a great job of setting his guys up, getting the ball in spots that were effective,” he added.
J.J. Redick added 16 points for the Clippers, who followed their epic collapse in Game 5 with a disappointing second half at home.
Despite a raucous crowd, L.A. won’t make its first trip to the conference final after the best regular season in franchise history.
“Oklahoma City absolutely deserves it,” said Paul, whose final-minute mistakes hurt the Clippers dearly in Game 5.
“We have a really good team, a great team,” he added. “It’s crazy. You play all season long, and the last few games, we really started to figure out who our team was and how to play.
“And it’s crazy that it’s over.”
Elsewhere, Indiana beat Washington 93-80 to win their Eastern Conference semi-final 4-2.
The Pacers now meet the Miami Heat in the East final.