May 15, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) shoots against Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes (22) during the fourth quarter in game six of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma City Thunder close out Los Angeles Clippers in LA

It wasn’t a good start for the Oklahoma City Thunder. After grabbing a 1-0 lead on a Kevin Durant technical free throw, the Clippers went on a tear in the first quarter. They led 30-16 after 12 minutes thanks to some brilliant passing and a lot of shot making. Durant and Westbrook had a combined three points (all by Durant). Steven Adams led OKC in scoring after the first quarter with six. Thabo Sefolosha had five points. Things definitely looked bleak, but then the MVP arrived.

In the second quarter, OKC slowing climbed back into things thanks in large part to Durant finding his shooting touch after a 1-7 start. He made three consecutive threes to cut the Clippers lead to five, but then the offense went cold at the end of the half thanks to a lot of overpassing in the paint and contested three point shots. The Clippers led 50-42 at the half. OKC was very fortunate to only be down eight considering that Westbrook only had two points.

Westbrook finally got it going a little bit in the second half, assisting on the first five OKC baskets, but his erratic play continued as he kept settling for jump shots and making bad passes. The defense continued their strong play for the second quarter though and with about four minutes left in the third, Westbrook finally flipped the switch. He started attacking, drawing contact, and making smart passes. OKC ended the third quarter on a 7-0 run culminated by a Nick Collison three pointer to tie the game heading into the fourth quarter.

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers rested Chris Paul to start the fourth quarter, while Thunder head coach Scott Brooks kept Durant and Westbrook in the game. OKC managed to grab a two point lead during that stretch, getting their offense in rhythm, and never looking back. Tied at 80-80. Oklahoma City went on a 10-0 run starting with a Durant jumper, a Westbrook layup, a Durant three, and a Reggie Jackson three.

The Clippers started to claw their way back into things, but then things got a little out of hand. Westbrook was called for an offensive foul after a great possession that would’ve led to a layup if Blake Griffin didn’t slide over and draw the charge. It looked like DeAndre Jordan had an easy dunk on the other end after a great pass by Chris Paul, but Paul was called for an offensive foul for elbowing Nick Collison as Jordan dunked. It was a very questionable call, but a fortunate one for OKC. Durant turned it over on the next offensive position, but managed to draw a charge on Griffin by hustling back on defense. It was Griffin’s fifth foul of the game with 3:11 left.

Instead of letting Griffin play with five fouls like they did in game four, Westbrook attacked the Clippers big man and drew his sixth foul.

After making both free throws, OKC went up 97-86 with 2:27 left to play and the Clippers not having Griffin. It looked like the game was over, but, as we’ve learned in this series, it’s not over until the final buzzer. The Clippers managed to cut the lead to 97-93 with 49 seconds left, but Westbrook got himself to the free throw line once again, knocked them both down, and put OKC up 6 with 32 seconds remaining. Out of the timeout, J.J. Redick missed a runner in the paint, Durant grabbed the rebound, and OKC iced the game at the free throw line to close out the Clippers by a final score of 104-98.

The start wasn’t pretty and the rim continued to play great defense on Durant, but once he found his shooting touch, he was once again unstoppable. After starting 1 for 7, Durant finished 11 for 16 from the field, including 5 for 8 from three and a perfect 10 for 10 from the line for a game high 39 points. Oh yeah, he also grabbed 16 rebounds. And once Durant got going, the rest of the team started to settle down and started playing with a lot more confidence.

Westbrook’s start was even worse, but once he got going late in the third quarter, OKC had their Batman and Robin duo in full force. Westbrook stopped making terrible passes and settling for jumpers and started attacking. And when Westbrook attacks, he’s almost unstoppable. Westbrook finished with 19 points and 12 assists.

The unsung heroes of the game though, were Steven Adams and Nick Collison. Serge Ibaka left the game in the third quarter with a calf injury and Collison entered after not playing the entire first half. Collison only had four points, but he also contributed two rebounds, two assists, a steal, and a block. Most importantly, he had no turnovers and played very good defense on Jordan and Griffin. As good as Collison was though, Adams was just as good. He contributed 10 points and 11 rebounds, while forcing Griffin into some tough shots. The report on Adams out of the draft was, “he’s very raw, but the talent is there.” It’s been fun watching Adams mature into what he’s become thus far and, at only 20-years old, what he’ll become in the future.

Outside of the first quarter, the Oklahoma City defense was very good. They held the Clippers to 42% from the field, but, more importantly, just 28% from three. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin got theirs, 25 and 22 points respectively, while J.J. Redick contributed 13 points, but Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford were very quiet, only scoring 15 points combined on 6 for 19 shooting.

This victory sets up a rematch between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. The two teams met two years ago, with the Thunder winning in six games after dropping the first two.

 

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