MVP Durant, 31-point Westbrook key Thunder in evening series with Clippers
Western Conference semi-finals
Thunder 112, Clippers 101 (Series tied 1-1)
Kevin Durant stood before his adoring home crowd, proudly holding his MVP trophy above his head during a pre-game ceremony.
He spent the next few hours showing how he earned it.
Durant had 32 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Los Angeles Clippers 112-101 on Wednesday night to tie their Western Conference semi-final series at one game apiece.
“We wanted to come back and respond,” Durant said. “So, I think that’s what fuelled the team tonight. We just went out there and played extremely well and left it all out there, and came out with a good ‘W.’”
During his emotional MVP acceptance speech on Tuesday, Durant called teammate Russell Westbrook an MVP-calibre player. Westbrook backed up Durant’s words with 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his third triple-double in his past five play-off games.
“I think Russ played harder than all of us combined,” Clippers guard Chris Paul said. “He was all over the place.”
Thunder coach Scott Brooks took Durant out of the game with 1:21 remaining, costing him a shot at the triple-double. According to information provided to the Thunder by the Elias Sports Bureau, no pair of teammates has had triple-doubles in the same play-off game.
Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha each scored 14 points for the Thunder, who shot 51 per cent from the field and outrebounded the Clippers 52-36.
“It was the perfect storm,” Clippers guard Jamal Crawford said. “They did everything they could to win, and they got everything they wanted tonight. That wasn’t the Clippers team we’ve been and I’m sure we’ll get back on track.”
JJ Redick scored 18 points, Paul had 17 points and 11 assists, and Blake Griffin added 15 points for the Clippers. Los Angeles made 15-of-29 three-pointers in Game 1, but just 9-of-27 in Game 2.
The Clippers will host Game 3 Friday in Los Angeles.
Durant scored 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting in the first quarter to help the Thunder take a 37-28 lead. Paul, who scored 17 points in the opening quarter of Game 1, went scoreless in the first quarter of Game 2 and watched most of the period from the bench with two fouls as the Thunder took control early.
Oklahoma City got an offensive boost from an unlikely source in the third quarter – Sefolosha, a defensive stopper. He hit a mid-range jumper, then dunked after a steal by Westbrook to give the Thunder a 78-66 lead. Sefolosha dunked again, then got a steal that led to a three-pointer by Westbrook and gave Oklahoma City a 90-73 advantage.
Sefolosha, who had averaged just 3.7 points in the play-offs, scored 12 points in the quarter to help the Thunder take a 94-77 lead into the fourth. Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he expected Durant and Westbrook to score, but not Sefolosha.
“We can win if they (Durant and Westbrook) both have good offensive games,” Rivers said. “What we can’t do is then give them that plus everything else. And I thought that’s what happened tonight.”
Westbrook clinched his triple-double with 1:21 remaining when he was credited with an assist after a pass to Sefolosha, who took two dribbles on his drive to the basket.
Rivers said the Thunder were the aggressors.
“Every single possession, you have to have great focus and you have to be locked in, and today we were not,” he said. “I thought it was because of all the clutter today. We’re upset at the officials, we’re upset at everything instead of turning our anger on the opponent and focus. Tonight we just didn’t have it.”
Eastern Conference semi-finals
Pacers 86, Wizards 82 (Series tied 1-1)
Indiana bounced back after a disappointing Game 1 with a huge night from struggling centre Roy Hibbert – 28 points, 10-of-13 shooting, nine rebounds and two blocks. The Pacers overcame poor shooting nights from David West, Paul George and Lance Stephenson (combined 11-for-33) while George Hill offered up 14 points and four rebounds on 6-of-12 shooting.
Two Washington stalwarts of this year’s play-offs, John Wall and Trevor Ariza, struggled from the field, making only a combined 4-of-21 shots.
Polish centre Marcin Gortat led the club, scoring 21 points on 10-of-15 shooting and grabbing 11 rebounds, while Bradley Beal added 17 points and seven assists and Brazilian forward Nene had 14 points on 7-of-14 shooting.
Game 3 is on Friday in Washington, DC.
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Published: May 8, 2014 04:00 AM