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Monday, May 21, 2012

Durant saves best for last in Thunder's win

AP

LOS ANGELES — With Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant engineering yet another late comeback, the Oklahoma City Thunder pushed Kobe Bryant to the brink.

News photo
Just that simple: Thunder forward Kevin Durant takes a shot in front of the Lakers' Kobe Bryant on Saturday in Los Angeles. Oklahoma City won 103-100. AP

Westbrook scored 10 of his 37 points during a stirring fourth-quarter rally, Durant added 31 points and hit the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 13.7 seconds left, and the Thunder seized control of the second-round series with a 103-100 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 on Saturday night.

Serge Ibaka scored 14 points and the second-seeded Thunder took a 3-1 series lead with a rally from a 13-point deficit in the final 8 minutes, moving one win away from their second straight trip to the Western Conference finals.

"Everybody kept fighting," Westbrook said. "We all believed in each other. It's the playoffs. You can't afford to sit back and wonder about it."

Game 5 is Monday night in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City improved to 7-1 in the postseason with a tenacious rally on the second night of back-to-back games against the Lakers and Bryant, who scored 38 points but struggled in the fourth quarter of Los Angeles' fifth loss in seven games. After Durant put the Thunder ahead with his shot-clock-draining 3-pointer, Kobe couldn't match it with 10 seconds left.

The Thunder finished Game 4 on a 22-8 run, punctuated by Durant's dramatic 3-pointer and two late free throws from James Harden, who had 12 points.

"We know no game is over," Durant said. "We've witnessed that before. We play hard every possession and live with the results, and we came out on top."

After sweeping Dallas in the first round, the Thunder are one win away from sending home the NBA's last two champions.

Andrew Bynum had 18 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who led 92-81 with 7:45 to play before Westbrook went to work with a furious series of drives to the hoop. The UCLA product scored nine points in just over 2 minutes, and Kendrick Perkins capped the 17-4 run on a putback layup with 1:16 left, putting Oklahoma City up 98-96 with its first lead since the first quarter.

After Bryant evened it with two free throws, Westbrook and Pau Gasol traded turnovers, with Durant swiping Gasol's careless pass before burying a straightaway 3-pointer that silenced Staples Center. The Thunder made 10 of their 15 shots in the final period.

"I wish I could sit up here and say how that happened," Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "It just happened."

Metta World Peace had 14 points, and Gasol managed just 10 points and five rebounds in the second game of the Lakers' first back-to-back playoff games in 13 years. A night after the Lakers got back in the series with a late comeback for a 99-96 victory in Game 3, Los Angeles led for most of the night, but couldn't execute on offense late, struggling for even difficult shots.

"We can talk about us offensively, because we had some struggles," Lakers coach Mike Brown said. "But it comes down to those guys scoring 32 points in the fourth quarter, and I thought they did that very easily. That's the most disappointing thing."

Spurs 96, Clippers 86

In Los Angeles, nothing was going to rattle the calm, cool and collected Spurs. Not even a 24-point deficit.

Tim Duncan scored 19 points, helping engineer a defining 24-0 run in the third quarter, and San Antonio defeated the Clippers to take a commanding 3-0 lead in their second-round playoff series.

"We didn't plan on being down that much," said Duncan, who at 36 is hungry to win the team's fifth NBA championship and first since 2006-07. "We stuck with it."

Led by Tony Parker's 23 points and his defense on an ailing Chris Paul, the Spurs kept running their plays even as Blake Griffin's early offensive assault buried them in a huge hole.

Griffin missed three shots in the first half, when he scored 20 points and carried his team to a 24-point lead despite a left hip injury and struggling with a sprained right knee.

"They came out like we expected, very strong. Blake was making crazy shots," Parker said. "We just took our time. It's a long game, a very long game. At halftime, we were very calm."

Griffin had 28 points and 16 rebounds, and reserve Mo Williams added 19 points for the Clippers, who face some daunting NBA history heading into Game 4 on Sunday at Staples Center. No team has rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a series.

"If we don't play with that sense of urgency, it's not going to be pretty," Griffin said.

The Clippers played a must-win Game 7 in the opening round on the road at Memphis and succeeded.

"We have to keep fighting," Paul said.



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