OKLAHOMA CITY – Russell Westbrook finished off Oklahoma City’s stunning comeback.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers believes he should never have had the chance.
Westbrook scored 38 points and made three free throws with 6.4 seconds remaining, and the Thunder overcame a seven-point deficit in the final 50 seconds to beat Los Angeles 105-104 on Tuesday night and go up 3-2 in the Western Conference semifinals.
“I think when you get a win like this it brings everybody closer,” Westbrook said. “It lets you know you can’t mess around. You have to take every moment, every play and go out and win the game.”
The play that led to Westbrook’s free throws is in dispute.
Kevin Durant made a 3-pointer, then Los Angeles’ Jamal Crawford missed in close before Durant made a layup with 17 seconds left. Westbrook stole the ball, and in a scramble, the Thunder got possession with 11.3 seconds to play, setting up Westbrook’s play. The Clippers believed the ball went off Oklahoma City’s Reggie Jackson, but the officials awarded the ball to the Thunder. After review, the play stood.
“Everybody knows it was our ball,” Rivers said. “The bottom line is they thought it was a foul and they made up for it. Let’s take away the replay. We were robbed. It was our ball, whether it was a foul or not.”
NBA crew chief Tony Brothers explained the call after the game.
“When the ball goes out of bounds, the ball was awarded to Oklahoma City,” he said. “We go to review the play. We saw two replays. The two replays we saw were from the overhead camera showing down, and the one from under the basket showing the same angle but from a different view. And from those two replays, it was inconclusive as to who the ball went out of bounds off of. When it’s inconclusive, we have to go with the call that was on the floor.”
The Thunder were more focused on what they did after the call. They can clinch the series Thursday in Los Angeles.
“I’ve never seen a game like this with us,” Durant said. “It just shows that you can never keep us down. We’re going to fight until the end no matter what happens. We fought through it all and persevered through it all.”
After the Thunder got possession, Westbrook was fouled by Chris Paul while shooting a 3-pointer with the Thunder trailing by two. Westbrook, who had missed a 3-pointer that would have won Game 4 in the closing seconds, welcomed the chance for redemption.
“I’m still upset about that shot that I missed in L.A. for the game, so tonight, I just tried to take my time, take a deep breath and knock ‘em down,” he said.
After the free throws, Paul drove to the hoop, but Jackson stole the ball from him, and time expired.
“Probably the toughest thing I’ve been through, basketball-wise,” Paul said. “Everything that happened there at the end is on me. It was just bad basketball.”
Durant scored 10 of his 27 points in the final 3:23 after shooting 3 for 17 through three quarters.
“Great players can have a bad shooting night, have a great three minutes and be the superstars that they are,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He hung in there and there were times where he thought nothing would go right. They stuck together and fought through a lot of tough situations.”
Blake Griffin had 24 points and 17 rebounds, Crawford scored 19 points and Paul had 17 points and 14 assists for the Clippers.
It was the latest in a string of spectacular games for Westbrook. He is averaging 29.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.8 assists in the series.
“He’s fierce and he’s fearless,” Brooks said. “He’s a winner. The guy competes for his team every single night and he practices the way he plays. He makes basketball plays to put our team in a winning position.”
The Clippers took a 101-88 lead in the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer by Crawford with 4:13 to play before Durant finally got involved. He hit a 3-pointer with 3:23 remaining on his first shot of the quarter, then drained two free throws to cut the Clippers’ lead to 101-95.
A layup by Jackson cut Los Angeles’ lead to four.
Griffin made the first of two free throws, and Glen Davis grabbed the rebound of the second. Paul’s mid-range jumper on the extra possession gave the Clippers a 104-97 edge with 49 seconds to play.
The Clippers appeared on their way to taking control of the series. Now, they are on the brink of elimination.
“We’ve been regrouping all year,” Rivers said. “We’ll be ready to play when we get to L.A. This one’s going to hurt. None of this would have happened if we’d taken care of business. That didn’t happen. We’ll be ready.”
NOTES: Thunder F Serge Ibaka played after the league reviewed his punch to Griffin’s groin in Game 4. . … Westbrook was called for a Flagrant 1 foul in the first quarter after trying to stop Griffin on a breakaway drive to the hoop. … The Clippers were called for a clear path foul when Darren Collison barrelled into Jackson, who was passing to a wide-open Westbrook with 2.3 seconds left in the first quarter.
© The Associated Press, 2014