The Oklahoma City Thunder are back in the Western Conference Finals.
With the Thunder and Clippers trading wins, the Thunder did something the Clippers could not – win two consecutive games.
The Thunder wavered and collapsed in Game 4 at Staples Center, blowing a large fourth-quarter lead and giving the Clippers momentum heading back to Oklahoma.
After a chaotic Game 5 resulted in the Thunder avoiding another home loss, the series switched back to Los Angeles and the Clippers made good use of the homecourt advantage, pulling out a 16-point lead early in the game.
OKC have collapsed in these playoffs under pressure but the newly-minted league MVP refused to let this series go to a decisive seventh game.
Durant scored 39 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, a heroic effort with the rest of his team struggling to contribute anything offensively.
Durant hit five threes as he went 12-23 from the field. He was a perfect 10-10 from the free-throw line.
After the Clippers rode out to a 30-16 first-quarter lead, the Thunder outscored them 88-66 over the final three quarters, including a 62-48 second-half edge.
Russell Westbrook, who scored three clutch free-throws to win Game 5, shot just 4-15 but had 10 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter. Westbrook helped out in other ways, dishing out 12 assists.
Chris Paul led the Clippers with 25 points and 11 assists and came just two rebounds away from a triple-double.
Blake Griffin endured a rough night, finishing with 22 points on 8-20 from the field and fouled out with 2:27 remaining in the game.
The Clippers suffered over the final 15 minutes of the game as the Thunder embarked on a series-clinching 30-10 run.
Staples Center grew increasingly frustrated as their team stagnated offensively and failed to keep the Thunder in check defensively. That frustration reached it’s tipping point with Griffin’s fifth foul, an offensive foul with over three minutes left in the game. Several drinks were thrown at referee Ed Malloy, resulting in a short delay while the floor was cleaned.
The Thunder now return to their third Western Conference Finals in four years and face the San Antonio Spurs starting Monday night in Texas.
Oklahoma City Thunder:
Kevin Durant: 39 points, 12-23 FGS, 16 rebounds, 10-10 FTS
Russell Westbrook: 19 points, 4-15 FGS, 12 assists, 11-12 FTS
Reggie Jackson: 14 points, 4-8 FGS, 5-6 FTS
Los Angeles Clippers:
Chris Paul: 25 points, 9-18 FGS, 11 assists, 8 rebounds
Blake Griffin: 22 points, 8-20 FGS, 8 assists, 8 rebounds
J.J. Redick: 16 points, 7-17 FGS