The Norman Transcript

Local Sports

May 10, 2014

Thunder grab 2-1 series lead

LOS ANGELES — Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks has often said his team can win games playing any style it needs to. Whether it’s fast and furious or slow and methodical, they have shown an ability to adapt.

Facing Los Angles in a crucial Game 3 Friday, the Thunder needed to get forceful and physical. They did just that and defeated the Clippers 118-112 at the Staples Center.

“I think both teams played a physical, demanding style of play,” Brooks said. “Both teams can score and score in transition, score in halfcourt. It’s not only a physical demand, but it’s the mental stress each team puts on each other.”

The Thunder head into Sunday’s Game 4 of the best-of-seven series with a 2-1 lead. But it took some clutch shots and unexpected bench production to make it happen.

"I think we did a good job of weathering storms throughout the game and sticking together," Kevin Durant said "We're going to have to do even more next game if we want to win. It's probably going to be the toughest game of the series."

With the Thunder leading 102-101, Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka picked up his fifth foul. Instead of getting tentative, he scored the next four points with a drive to the basket and a put-back dunk.

The Clippers’ Blake Griffin powered his way for back-to-back baskets to close the deficit to a single point, but Thunder guard Russell Westbrook had an answer waiting for Los Angeles. He drained a deep 3-pointer from the top of the key to silence the more than 19,000 fans on hand.

After Chris Paul missed a 3-pointer, the Thunder got the ball to Kevin Durant outside the paint with Paul guarding him. He took a couple of dribbles and hit a turn-around jumper to put Oklahoma City up 113-107 with 1:12 left on the clock.

Los Angeles was unable to respond and they had to start fouling. The Thunder closed out the contest at the free throw line.

“Well, we have experience,” Brooks said. “You still have to be able to execute and you have to make some shots. We made some shots.”

Durant led all scorers with 36 points on 14-of-24 shooting. He also had eight rebounds and six assists. Westbrook added 20 points and 13 assists, finishing two rebounds shy of a second straight triple-double. Former Clipper Caron Butler was 3 for 5 from behind the arc, as he scored 14 points.

Griffin posted 34 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Paul notched a double-double with 21 points, 15 assists and no turnovers. Jamal Crawford came off the bench to score 20 points on the night he earned the Sixth Man of the Year Award.

But it wasn’t enough to overcome the Thunder’s decisive 44-33 advantage on the boards.

The Clippers made a concerted effort to open up the game by working the paint. DeAndre Jordan took an alley-oop from Paul that got the crowd on its feet.

But it was Griffin who tried to set the tone by dropping his shoulder into Ibaka and Nick Collison and forcing his way near the rim. After being held to 15 points in Game 2, he finished the opening quarter with 14 as the Clippers led 33-29.

“His advantage in this series will not be power,” Rivers said. “His advantage in the Golden State series, he was more powerful. His advantage in this series will be his speed.”

The game took on an even more physical tone late in the first half when Westbrook and Griffin collided under the Thunder basket. Westbrook got up holding his side in pain. The next time down the floor, Griffin was called for a moving screen when he hip checked Westbrook in the injured area.

It continued in the third when Ibaka nailed Griffin in the nose. No foul was called even though blood came pouring out.

"I got hit, took an elbow to then ose," Griffin said. "When i asked him about it, he said I ran my face into his elbow. So I got to be careful where I put my face."

While the physical play ratcheted up the intensity of the game, it was something Rivers assumed would happen.

“I always say when I hear someone say they are going to be more physical, that’s probably what you should have done to begin with,” Rivers said. “We have to be ready to deal with it because it is a physical game. No one should be surprised by physicality.”

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