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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Durant, Westbrook slam door on Lakers to advance

AP

OKLAHOMA CITY — With the Oklahoma City Thunder just starting to come to life, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant didn't need to take a break.

News photo
Dream lives on: Kevin Durant celebrates the Thunder's 106-90 win over the Lakers on Monday in Oklahoma City. AP

They will have enough time to rest as they get ready for a second straight trip to the Western Conference finals.

Westbrook scored 28 points, Durant added 25 points and 10 rebounds, and the two All-Stars skipped their usual rest periods to power the Thunder ahead in the second half for a 106-90 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5 of the West semifinals on Monday night.

"We know that's the most important time of the game, especially in a tight game," Durant said. "I think that we kept our composure throughout the fourth, and our poise and we made plays."

Kobe Bryant scored 42 points for the Lakers and took the briefest of rest — less than 2 minutes — in the second half. It didn't even take that long for the game, and their season, to slip away.

After getting eliminated by Los Angeles in 2010 and Dallas in 2011 before both of those teams went on to win it all, the Thunder knocked both out on their way to the West finals for the second straight year.

The only other time the franchise made consecutive conference finals was from 1978-80, including Seattle's only NBA title in 1979.

Once there, they'll face the top-seeded Spurs, the only team other than the Lakers or Mavs to win the West in the past 13 years and currently riding an 18-game winning streak. The series starts Sunday night in San Antonio.

After Westbrook's pair of three-point plays fueled a 14-3 burst that put Oklahoma City ahead to stay late in the third quarter, Durant hit two 3-pointers as the Thunder scored the first 10 points of the fourth to push their lead to 93-77.

Bryant was waiting to check in when Durant connected on his second 3-pointer, just 89 seconds into the fourth quarter. But by the time he got in, there was little he could do — despite the 13th 40-point game of his playoff career.

"That what we do. That's our rotations and that's the right rotation to make," Bryant said. "You have to trust that unit coming in there to hold the fort down."

Lakers coach Mike Brown said he trusted that unit — including starters Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum — after it had turned a five-point deficit into a lead to start the second quarter.

"I've got to be able to rest Kobe a few minutes here and there, and we didn't do a good job of handling it at that point in the game," Brown said, adding that he didn't keep Bryant out as long as he had planned.

Westbrook went running to the scorer's table and pumped his fist in the air after his first energizing three-point play, when he was able to flip the ball in after Ramon Sessions fouled him on the fast break.

"I just tried to throw it to the rim and luckily it went in. That kind of sparked us, and everybody else kept it going from there," Westbrook said.

Celtics 101, 76ers 85

In Boston, they started as a Big Three and grew to a Big Four when point guard Rajon Rondo earned the right to be mentioned along with the other Celtics All-Stars.

At no point, however, did Brandon Bass merit marquee billing in his first season in Boston.

The fifth, newest and least-heralded member of the Celtics' starting lineup, Bass erupted for a career playoff-high 27 points on, scoring 18 in the third quarter to help Boston pulled away from Philadelphia to take a 3-2 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinals series.

"We've got a few good players on the team that they had to focus on," said Bass, who left the game to a standing ovation with 2 minutes left and the Celtics leading by 18. "That left me open, and I was able to take advantage of my opportunity."

The 27 points matched Bass' regular-season career high, and the 18 points in the third was one off his career playoff high for an entire game. It was also more than the Sixers scored in the quarter as a team.

Kevin Garnett added 20 points and Rajon Rondo had 13 points and 14 assists for the Celtics.

Elton Brand scored 19 and Evan Turner had 11 points and 10 rebounds for Philadelphia.



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