The Woodward News

Sports

May 8, 2014

Thunder even series at 1-1

By Michael Kinney

CNHI News Service

OKLAHOMA CITY — One of the last things coach Scott Brooks said after Oklahoma City lost Monday was that Los Angeles didn’t feel his team. They had let the Clippers do pretty much anything they wanted en route to giving up 120 points.

Brooks promised that a different Thunder squad would show for Game 2, and he kept his word. Spurred on by Kevin Durant earning his first MVP, Oklahoma City defeated Los Angeles 112-101 Wednesday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“I thought they did exactly what Scotty Brooks said they were going to do, so give them credit,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “He said they were going to make us feel them and I thought they did that. They were by far the more physical team. They were the tougher team tonight, for sure.”

The best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series is tied 1-1 as it heads  to Los Angeles for Game 3 on Friday. It took a special performance by the Thunder’s dynamic duo to make that happen.

Russell Westbrook scored 31 points, handed out 10 assists and grabbed 10 rebounds for his third triple-double of the postseason. Fresh off collecting the league’s MVP award, Durant was one assist shy of a triple-double, as he tallied 32 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists.

“I think it was more fueled because we lost,” Durant said. “We lost by 20 points last game. Guys were pissed off. Guys wanted to come back and respond. We just went out there and played extremely hard and left it all out there.”

Thabo Sefolosha may have given the Thunder the biggest spark when he scored 12 of his 14 points in the third period, when the team pulled away. Kendrick Perkins added eight points and nine rebounds.

J.J. Redick led the Clippers with 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting. Point guard Chris Paul added 17 points, 11 assists, five rebounds and three steals. Blake Griffin added 15 points and six rebounds.

After outplaying Westbrook in the opener, Paul conceded that Westbrook got the better of him in Game 2 with his energy and all-out aggression. He said foul trouble kept him from matching Westbrook’s intensity.

“It’s tough to guard him as it is,” Paul said. “You get two bad fouls like that early in the game. When you are in foul trouble, it makes it even tougher. Game 3, I will come out ready to play and see if I can do better.”

If Durant had any emotional hangover from getting the MVP, it didn’t show when the game started. He came out firing and poured in 17 first-quarter points on 7-of-11 shooting. Even when the Clippers started double-teaming him, he stayed aggressive and drove to the basket.

Westbrook added 10 points in the opening period as Oklahoma City opened a 37-28 advantage.

However, the Thunder had no answer for Redick. Sefolosha was inserted back into the starting lineup to contain the free-shooting guard. That didn’t last long, as Thunder coach Scott Brooks was forced to try guard Derek Fisher on Redick, then Durant.

After a brief delay due to the lights dimming, the Thunder went into halftime leading 61-56.

Oklahoma City turned to its defense coming out of halftime. Led by the inspired play of Sefolosha, the Thunder had Los Angeles back on its heels.

In one sequence, the Thunder forced three consecutive turnovers and scored each time. The stretch include two steals by Sefolosha that led to a Sefolosha breakaway dunk and a Westbrook 3-pointer.

More important, Sefolosha held Redick to just two points in the second half.

“Thabo came back and gave us a good defensive presence on Redick in that second half,” Brooks said. “I thought he had too many open looks in the first half. But he really locked in and did a much better job in that second half.”

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