OKLAHOMA CITY — After his team was routed in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks promised a different Thunder squad would show up for Game 2.
He kept his word.
Spurred on by forward Kevin Durant and guard Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City topped the Los Angeles Clippers 112-101 Wednesday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, evening the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.
“I thought they did exactly what Scotty Brooks said they were going to do, so give them credit,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “He said they were going to make us feel them, and I thought they did that. They were by far the more physical team. They were the tougher team tonight for sure.”
The series is level as it heads to Los Angeles for Game 3 on Friday, but it took a special performance by the Thunder’s dynamic duo to make that happen.
Westbrook scored 31 points, handed out 10 assists and grabbed 10 rebounds for his third triple-double of the postseason. Fresh off collecting the league’s MVP award, Durant was one assist shy of a triple-double, as he tallied 32 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists.
“I think it was more fueled because we lost,” Durant said. “We lost by (17) points last game. Guys were pissed off. Guys wanted to come back and respond. We just went out there and played extremely hard and left it all out there.”
Durant and Westbrook got some help.
Guard Thabo Sefolosha gave the Thunder a huge spark when he scored 12 of his 14 points in the third period, when Oklahoma City pulled away. Forward Serge Ibaka scored 14 points, and center Kendrick Perkins added eight points and nine rebounds.
Guard J.J. Redick led the Clippers with 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting. Point guard Chris Paul added 17 points, 11 assists, five rebounds and three steals. Forward Blake Griffin added 15 points and six rebounds.
After outplaying Westbrook in the opener, Paul conceded that Westbrook got the better of him in Game 2 with his energy and all-out aggression. Paul said foul troubled kept him from matching Westbrook’s intensity.
“It’s tough to guard him as it is,” Paul said. “You get two bad fouls like that early in the game … it makes it even tougher. Game 3, I will come out ready to play and see if I can do better.”
If Durant had any emotional hangover from receiving the MVP on Tuesday, it didn’t show when the game started. He came out firing and poured in 17 first-quarter points on 7-of-11 shooting. Even when the Clippers started double-teaming him, he stayed aggressive and drove to the basket.
Westbrook added 10 points in the opening period as Oklahoma City opened a 37-28 advantage.
However, the Thunder had no answer for Redick. Sefolosha was inserted back into the starting lineup to contain the free-shooting guard. That didn’t last long, as Thunder coach Scott Brooks was forced to try guard Derek Fisher on Redick, then Durant.
After a brief delay due to the lights dimming, the Thunder went into halftime leading 61-56.
Oklahoma City turned to its defense coming out of halftime. Led by the inspired play of Sefolosha, the Thunder had Los Angeles back on its heels.
In one sequence, the Thunder forced three consecutive turnovers and scored each time. The stretch include two steals by Sefolosha that led to a Sefolosha breakaway dunk and a Westbrook 3-pointer.
More important, Sefolosha held Redick to just two points in the second half.
“Thabo came back and gave us a good defensive presence on Redick in that second half,” Brooks said. “I thought (Redick) had too many open looks in the first half, but (Sefolosha) really locked in and did a much better job in that second half.”
NOTES: A day after being officially selected the NBA’s MVP, Oklahoma City F Kevin Durant was presented the award again before the start of Game 2 in front of fans at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The ceremony brought back memories to Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “I had a bad ceremony when I was in San Antonio, if everyone remembers back when I played 100 years ago,” Rivers said. “David Robinson, who is the most gracious human being alive, he thanked all the other guys who were nominated except the guy in the gym, Hakeem Olajuwon. To this day, (Clyde) Drexler says that was when Olajuwon started that incredible roll and was spurred on by that.” … Oklahoma City G Russell Westbrook responded to criticism he gets from the media over such as leaving his team’s huddle during timeouts. “A lot of things I do look worse than it is,” Westbrook said. “Think I worried about that? Hell nah.” … Since Thunder coach Scott Brooks comes from a single-parent household, he said the most memorable part about Durant’s MVP speech Tuesday dealt with Durant’s mother. “That’s what hit me the most yesterday,” said Brooks, whose mother died in January 2013.
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