In a dramatic come-from-behind finish on Tuesday night, the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Clippers, 105-104.
Westbrook was clutch, making all three attempts to give the Thunder a one-point lead.
Paul attempted to drive into the lane for the game-winner, but he was stripped by Serge Ibaka as time expired, ending the game and securing the win for Oklahoma City.
ESPN's J.A. Adande tweeted the intense reaction from the Thunder crowd:
The Clippers entered Tuesday night's contest with the daunting task of defeating the Thunder in Oklahoma City—Kevin Durant and Co. had a 34-7 regular-season record at home.
That's not all Los Angeles had to overcome. This team has faced plenty of adversity this postseason due to comments made by Donald Sterling. However, according to an interview with Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, Blake Griffin said his team is now focused:
Throughout the past two weeks, we've tried to make it as less as possible about that and not about what's going on with him. If you ask every single guy on this team, they'd say they love their family. They love their teammates. That's who we're playing for. And that's really the bottom line.
It's a lot easier now, to tell you the truth. In that Golden State series, it was a little tougher time. But now, we feel like we're focused.
In the first quarter, it began to look as though Los Angeles would overcome the odds and take down the Thunder on their home turf.
J.J. Redick got things going early from the perimeter, nailing his first three in short order. The Clippers torched a porous Thunder defense in the first quarter using a great deal of versatility—Redick on the outside and Griffin on the inside.
At the end of the first, the Clippers were dominating, leading the Thunder, 34-25.
Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times tweeted Griffin's stats following the opening stanza:
Dan Woike of the Orange County Register noted that Redick had also filled up the scoring column:
Unfortunately for Los Angeles, foul trouble led to the team sitting some key players, allowing the Thunder to get back in the game.
Adande caught wind of a conversation between Doc Rivers and Glen Davis after Davis picked up his third foul of the game on Durant:
DeAndre Jordan followed suit, according to Woike:
To make matters worse, Paul's absence had major ramifications, according to Adande:
As the half came to a close, Oklahoma City got within striking distance. The Thunder entered the break down, 58-52, after L.A. had dictated the flow for a good portion of the game.
Royce Young of DailyThunder.com indicated a big reason why Oklahoma City was able to make the comeback:
The third quarter began with some back-and-forth scoring; however, the Clippers continued to dig themselves deeper into foul trouble, as Paul picked up his third of the game.
Woike tweeted a staggering statistic early in the quarter:
Luckily for the Clippers, defense against Durant was fantastic up to this point in the game. With under eight minutes remaining in the third quarter, Durant had 15 points—eight of which came from the foul line.
Turner reminded us of the regular-season MVP's numbers:
Through the remainder of the third quarter, Durant continued to struggle. Fortunately for the Thunder, Westbrook was on fire.
Westbrook continued to play with a high level of intensity, willing his team to keep pace with the Clippers. At the end of the quarter, he had already tallied 29 points.
Jeff Caplan of NBA.com really summed up his feelings on the polar-opposite play of Westbrook and Durant:
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Clippers led, 86-80.
Paul and the Clippers continued to pour it on early in the final frame. Jamal Crawford finally found his stroke from downtown and helped increase his team's lead to 11.
Shortly after, the Thunder received a much-needed boost from Durant. Young took the opportunity after Durant nailed a huge three to make light of the fact that he had largely been a no-show:
Durant came through in the clutch, sinking a three with a minute remaining. After a quick Clippers turnover and another Thunder score, Oklahoma City found itself within two points with just 11 seconds to go. And that led to the aforementioned foul on Westbrook.
After the game, the Clippers were furious about multiple calls, but the one that stood out was a botched out-of-bounds call just before Westbrook's turnover. As Reggie Jackson went in for a layup, Matt Barnes appeared to slap the ball out of bounds, with Jackson touching it last. Despite going to replay, the call stood: OKC ball. This prompted an explanation from referee Tony Brothers on the call, via the NBA on ESPN, and a rant from Doc Rivers, via ESPN's Adande:
Paul shouldered all of the blame after the game, as Young and Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated pointed out:
Following the Thunder's win, they now lead the series, 3-2. Los Angeles finds itself on the brink of elimination but will have home-court advantage in a do-or-die Game 6 at the Staples Center.
This series has absolutely lived up to its billing, as these two juggernauts have provided some incredible drama through five games. With all of the controversy over referee calls in Game 5, it will be interesting to see how the officiating crew calls a pivotal Game 6. And how will Chris Paul bounce back after one of his worst closing performances of all time?
Thursday's Game 6 can't come soon enough.
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