The Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder take their entertaining Western Conference semifinal series, knotted at 1-1, to Staples Center Friday night for Game 3.
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The Thunder, perhaps strengthened by the pregame MVP presentation to Kevin Durant Wednesday night, evened the series with a 112-101 victory in Game 2 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Durant led the way with 32 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists for a near triple-double. Russell Westbrook did enough for his fourth postseason triple- double thanks to 31 points, 10 boards and 10 helpers.
"We set the bar high for ourselves," Durant said. "We have a high standard that we try to reach. We work extremely hard. One thing about Russ, he demands so much out of everybody and brings the level of the team up with his intensity and his effort."
What was absent in the Thunder's 17-point loss at home on Monday was found in evening the series as role players like Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins all provided solid production.
Sefolosha scored 12 of his 14 points in a momentum-building third quarter. The defensive specialist, who scored just 17 points in the first round against Memphis and didn't play a minute in Games 6 and 7, scored on back-to-back possessions to cap a 10-2 run in the third that stretched Oklahoma City's lead to 78-66 midway through the period. Sefolosha then ignited an 11-0 flurry minutes later with a 3-pointer.
Ibaka netted 14 with seven rebounds and Perkins pulled down nine boards for a frontcourt that helped Oklahoma City to a 52-36 edge on the glass.
But now the series shifts to Staples Center. OKC split two meetings in LA this season with the Clippers and is 3-1 in its last four as the visitor in this matchup.
"We have to do the same thing in Los Angeles," OKC coach Scott Brooks said on Thursday. "We know how they're feeling. After you lose, you want to come back and redeem (yourself) and play much better. We have to come out with the same mindset, same approach and same determination that we had last game."
Chris Paul finished with 17 points and 11 assists to lead the Clippers but was far from the otherworldly force he was in the opener. J.J. Redick scored a team-high 18 points but had just two after halftime, and Blake Griffin, who finished third in the MVP voting, shot just 5-of-13 from the field for 15 points.
The Clippers only made a third of their 3-point attempts (9-of-27) after connecting on 15-of-29 from long range in their homecourt-stealing Game 1 victory.
"They were the more physical team," Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. "I don't think we were very tough mentally tonight."
Perhaps the Clippers can gain some momentum themselves from a player winning an award.
On Thursday, Jamal Crawford was named the Sixth Man of the Year for the second time in his career.
"There's so many people that helped out with this," said Crawford. "My teammates, my coaching staff, I hope we can all share it."
Game 4 will be Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles.