Oklahoma City wins series 4-2
|Game 1: Monday, May 5th|
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|Game 2: Wednesday, May 7th|
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|Game 3: Friday, May 9th|
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|Game 4: Sunday, May 11th|
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|Game 5: Tuesday, May 13th|
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|Game 6: Thursday, May 15th|
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10:30 PM ET, May 15, 2014
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
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.
Durant had 39 points and 16 rebounds, and Oklahoma City advanced to the Western Conference finals with a 104-98 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 6 on Thursday night.
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Russell Westbrook overcame a slow start to finish with 19 points and 12 assists as the Thunder reached the conference finals for the third time in four years, closing out Los Angeles with two straight wins.
Two days after the Thunder erased a late 13-point deficit to win Game 5, they 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 said. "We've got a long ways to go. We definitely can get better. This is definitely a series that pushed us to the brink. We were in a tough spot. We stayed together and persevered."
The league MVP hit five 3-pointers and Reggie Jackson added 14 points for Oklahoma City, which will face the Spurs in a rematch of the West's past two champions. The series begins Monday night in San Antonio.
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."
J.J. Redick scored 16 points for the Clippers, who followed their epic collapse in Game 5 with a disappointing second half at home. Despite a raucous home crowd, Los Angeles won't make its first trip to the conference finals 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. 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."
The Clippers led for almost every minute of the first three quarters, but Durant kept the Thunder close and eventually ignited a 30-10 run stretching across the final two quarters. Westbrook, who didn't have a field goal until late in the third quarter, contributed 10 points in the fourth as the Thunder comfortably maintained their lead.
The fans' frustration boiled over after an offensive foul call against Griffin with 3:11 to play. During the ensuing timeout, fans threw at least two drinks at referee Ed Malloy, causing a slight delay while the floor was cleaned.
Griffin fouled out with 2:27 left, but the Clippers got within four points in the final minute before Westbrook and Durant hit free throws to close it out.
The loss ended a tumultuous postseason for the Clippers, who managed to win a seven-game series with Golden State in the first round even while Sterling was banned from the NBA for life for racist comments exposed during that series.
"We've gone through a lot of stuff over the last three or four weeks," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "I don't think that was why we didn't win. I don't think we should use that as an excuse. We're a team in process. I believe we were good enough to win it this year. Oklahoma City told us we were not."
Oklahoma City smoothly secured its spot in the conference finals after these teams traded spectacular collapses in the last two games.
The Thunder blew a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter of Game 4 at Staples Center, but the Clippers responded by blowing a 13-point lead in the final four minutes in Oklahoma City.
The Clippers showed little carry-over from their collapse early in Game 6, while the Thunder appeared a step slow and disorganized, falling behind by 16 points in the first half. Durant and Westbrook combined to miss their first nine shots, but Durant quickly got going.
Serge Ibaka scored six points before going to the locker room in the third quarter with an injured left calf. ... The NBA fined Rivers $25,000 on Thursday for his criticism of the officiating in Game 5. "I thought it was deserved," Rivers said. ... Matt Damon, Rihanna, Tony Romo, Oscar De La Hoya, UFC president Dana White, former Clippers guard Eric Gordon and Masters champion Bubba Watson attended the game. Jack Nicholson watched from a seat near the Clippers' bench. The archetypal Lakers fan also has occasionally attended Clippers games over the years.
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 15: T-shirts are laid out over seats before Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals...(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Around The Association
MVP: It took Kevin Durant nearly nine minutes to make his first shot, but in the second half, all bets were off. The league MVP finished the game with 39 points on 23 shots and grabbed 16 rebounds. He was unstoppable down the stretch and made all 10 of his free throws.
That was ... unfortunate: When Chris Paul was called for a questionable offensive foul late in the game, an understandably agitated Staples Center crowd responded by throwing drinks at the referees.
X factor: Scott Brooks opened the second half with center Steven Adams on the court instead of usual starter Kendrick Perkins. The rookie was huge throughout the contest, tallying 10 points and 11 rebounds in 40 big minutes of action.
Kevin Durant shook off a slow start in the first half to score a game-high 39 points. Matt Barnes contained Durant in the first half, but Durant flipped the script in the second half, scoring 16 of his 25 points when guarded by Barnes.[+]
Kevin Durant Offense, Game 6
1 pick in upcoming NBA Draft - 28th overall * 2015 First Round pick goes to Celtics (Doc Rivers compensation) $66.3M in guaranteed contracts in 2014-15 (projected salary cap is $63.2M) Chris Paul and Blake Griffin: signed through 2017-18 (both have player options in 2017-18) DeAndre Jordan: signed through 2014-15 Darren Collison ($2.0M), Danny Granger ($1.3M) and Glen Davis ($1.2M) have player options Ryan Hollins and Hedo Turkoglu: unrestricted free agents With the luxury tax projected to climb to $77.0M in 2014-15, the Clippers best free agency tool will likely be the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (can sign any free agent to a contract with a starting salary up to $5.3M)[+]
Clippers 2014-15 Contracts
Nick Collison came in for an injured Serge Ibaka at 7:24 of the third quarter and played well defensively. Clippers players were 3-of-11 for 7 points when Collison was the primary defender, all during the final 19 minutes. Clippers players were 7-of-14 for 16 points when Ibaka was the primary defender.
Durant grabbed a season-high 16 rebounds, including 12 in the second half. He had plenty of opportunities as the Clippers went cold on uncontested jumpers, shooting 1-of-9 for two points on such shots in the second half. The Clippers were 6-of-10 for 15 points in the first half.
From Elias: CP3 is one of 7 players in NBA history to have 6,000 assists through their 1st 9 seasons. Of those players, Paul is the only one NOT to reach the Conference Finals over that time span.[+]
From Elias: Kevin Durant is averaging 32.0 points this series while Russell Westbrook is putting up 29.6 per game. Should they both average 30+ PPG for the series, they'd become just the 4th pair of teammates in NBA postseason history to accomplish that feat and the first since Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal in the 2001 Western Conference Semifinals.[+]
Should the Thunder win tonight and advance to play the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals ... The Thunder swept the Spurs 4-0 in the regular season. From Elias: There have been only 3 instances in NBA history where one team was 4-0 or better vs. another team in the regular season and they met in the Conference Finals. In all 3 cases, the team that swept the regular season won the playoff series as well.[+]
4-0 or Better vs Opponent in Regular Season - Met in Conference Finals
The Thunder have a 3-0 series record when leading 3-2 since moving to Oklahoma City.[+]
Thunder When Leading 3-2 Since Moving to Oklahoma City
Russell Westbrook is averaging 27.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 8.1 assists this postseason. The only player in NBA history to average at least 27 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists in a single postseason was Oscar Robertson (3 times).
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