Playoff Recap: Thunder at Clippers Game 6
THUNDER WINS SERIES
11 Rebounds for Steven Adams in a career-high 40 minutes of action, to go with ten points for his second career double-double
12 Assists for Russell Westbrook in addition to 19 points, three rebounds and two steals
12-for-23 Shooting numbers for Kevin Durant, who scored 39 points and shot 5-for-8 from three
16 Rebounds for Kevin Durant, all on the defensive end of the floor, in addition to five assists and two blocks
16:57 Minutes played by Nick Collison, all in the second half, when he scored four points and made two rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block
29-for-33 Free throw shooting numbers for the Thunder, led by 21-for-22 shooting from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined
35-17 The Thunder’s edge in bench points, led by Reggie Jackson’s 14
88-68 The amount by which the Thunder outscored the Clippers over the final three quarters
By Nick Gallo, Thunder Basketball Writer
May 15th, 2014
LOS ANGELES – The Thunder was behind, but not out, lying in wait for its opportunity to strike. After sustaining a solid opening salvo by the Los Angeles Clippers, Head Coach Scott Brooks found its opening in the third and fourth quarters, and struck repeatedly en route to a 104-98 series clinching Game 6 victory.
After a rough opening quarter that saw the Clippers build a 16-point lead, the Thunder settled in and stayed patient, working together to solve some of the problems Los Angeles threw its way. The defense tightened over the final 36 minutes, as the Thunder held the Clippers to 39.2 percent shooting during the second, third and fourth quarters combined.
By repeatedly forcing missed shots and getting stops, the Thunder was able to rally with runs of 7-0 and 10-0 in the second half to earn a huge victory, and a berth in the Western Conference Finals. Leaders Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 58 points, 19 rebounds and 17 assists, but it was the contributions from players like Reggie Jackson, Steven Adams and Nick Collison that helped put the Thunder over the top, as its confidence, cohesion and trust shined through in the second half.
“Tonight’s game was something that we’ve done all year,” Brooks said. “We’ve all stuck together and found ways to win.”
“We did a great job of sticking together,” Westbrook said. “Our bench came in and did an amazing job of helping us get this win.”
Jackson led the Thunder’s bench with 14 points and helped the unit rack up a 35-17 scoring edge over the Clippers bench. Adams was huge throughout the night, playing a career-high 40 minutes and notching his second career double-double, and first in the playoffs, with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Adams’ physicality and Jackson’s athleticism were significant factors in helping the Thunder keep the game within striking distance early, then overcoming the deficit late.
Collison’s impact was perhaps the most impressive. He hadn’t stepped onto the court all night, but when he was called upon in the third quarter after Serge Ibaka went down with a calf injury, he stood and delivered. In 19 minutes, Collison scored four points and made two rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block, but his professionalism, precision and focus was what made the difference for the Thunder’s offensive flow. His effort and diligence was personified by the play the Thunder ran to end the third quarter.
Trailing by three, the Thunder held for the final shot and set Collison up in the corner for a wide open three-pointer. It was his only shot attempt of the night, and thanks to his patented deep knee bend and picture-perfect follow through, the ball swished right through the net. It was a momentum boosting shot to tie the game heading into the final quarter, but also incredible symbolism for the always-be-ready mentality Thunder players have and the faith every player and coach has in their teammates.
“Nick stepped up,” Brooks said. “Nick has taken 1000 shots from the corner, from the three-point line, and hasn’t had many opportunities this season. That was a big bucket. I love the fact that we trusted him. We see him work every day and it’s nice our guys rewarded him with a nice, clean pass and the belief he was going to make that shot.”
As for the team as a whole, Collison’s leadership was only matched by Durant and Westbrook. The duo shook off a forgettable shooting start and a combined three points in the first quarter to dominate the flow and tempo of the game by the end. Durant finished with 39 points, scoring 11 in the second quarter, 14 in the third quarter and another 11 in the fourth quarter to go with 16 total rebounds, all on the defensive end.
Westbrook’s shot wasn’t falling, so he turned into the ultimate floor general until he found his opportunities to score. By racking up 12 assists, Westbrook helped get all of his teammates involved and then attacked the paint, scoring 11 of his 19 points from the free throw line.
“Russell was solid,” Brooks said. “He didn’t have a good shooting night but he had 12 assists and he had a lot of free throws because he was attacking. Kevin got hot in the second half. Our bigs did a good job of setting him up. Give Kevin credit. He did a good job of getting low, setting up and not letting them hold him.”
“They lead and our guys do a great job of supporting them, helping them and putting them in positions for all of us to have success,” Brooks explained.
After the win, the Thunder immediately began turning its attention to Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Monday, as the team will travel to San Antonio to face the Spurs. This is the third trip to the Conference Finals for the Thunder in the last four seasons, and is an incredible opportunity to continue to grow and gel as a unit.
The 13 difficult games the Thunder played against the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers serve as great experience for the team moving forward, but the Thunder knows that it will have quite a battle on its hands in terms of execution, focus and attention to detail.
“Every series prepares you for the next one,” Durant said. “We’re excited to be moving on but we’re not satisfied.”
The Thunder continually chipped away throughout the second and third quarters, but the game turned completely during a crucial minute of action at the end of the third period. Trailing 72-65 with 1:11 left in the quarter, the Thunder rattled off seven straight points to enter the fourth quarter tied at 72. It started with Russell Westbrook catching his own miss and tipping it back in, then Reggie Jackson made a steal and soared to the rim for a vicious slam dunk. The Thunder then forced a Clippers missed shot and set up a well-executed play to get Nick Collison a wide open corner three-pointer with just one second remaining in the quarter.
That burst gave the Thunder all the momentum heading into the fourth quarter, where the two teams seemingly traded scores for the first few minutes. With the game tied at 80 with 7:59 left in regulation, however, the Thunder erupted for a 10-0 run that gave Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team the cushion it needed to close out the win. The run started with a Kevin Durant jumper and after a Clippers turnover, a Westbrook transition layup. After forcing the Clippers into a missed shot, Westbrook then hit Durant for a three-pointer, and after a timeout, another defensive stop led to a Jackson three-pointer, giving the Thunder a 90-80 edge with 6:00 remaining.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Strong box out by Kendrick Perkins to draw an offensive foul on DeAndre Jordan, then Perkins tips out a defensive rebound to a teammate to start a transition chance. Great reaction time by Steven Adams to make a tough catch and finish at the rim. Nice job by Serge Ibaka in transition to keep his verticality to force a missed layup. Good job on a switch by Ibaka to force the much smaller Darren Collison into a travel. Amazing job of closing out and contesting by Kevin Durant to block a three-point attempt.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Excellent box out by Nick Collison to snare a defensive rebound. Perfect bounce pass by Collison to a cutting Russell Westbrook for an easy bucket. Strong defensive rebound by Durant to regain possession. Beautiful pick-and-roll execution by Durant and Westbrook. Solid screen by Steven Adams to free up Durant for an elbow jumper. An unbelievable touch pass by Collison to Adams for a dunk out of the pick-and-roll. Durant hustles back in transition defense and draws a charge. Incredible defensive rebound by Durant after he tipped the ball to himself.
“We stayed together and persevered, and that shows character. We’ve been together for so long and guys have grown a lot. Guys have matured.” – forward Kevin Durant