Kevin Durant played more like Mr. Undeniable last night after scoring 14 points in the first quarter and making six of his 10 attempts.
His production slowed a little through the rest of the game after Tony Allen of the Grizzlies was unleashed on him. But Durant still put up 36 points on the night, and helped the Thunder crush Memphis at home 104-84 and force a game 7 in OKC on Saturday.
Durant was the subject of a controversial headline printed by the Oklahoman yesterday that read “Mr. Unreliable.” When asked about it, Durant was surprised as he doesn’t pay attention to the media or social media during the playoffs. But he insisted he was OK with it, saying that’s what the media is supposed to do and that he hasn’t been living up to his expectations.
The rest of the world, however, adamantly disagreed with the message the headline sent and rose to the occasion, defending Durant on social media and publically with billboards and signs of endearment.
Whether that controversy lit a spark under Durant and the Thunder or not, the team played like their old selves last night, effectively shutting down the Memphis Grizzlies.
And while the focus was on Durant, it was Russell Westbrook that was making a quiet, but stern statement on the floor, putting up 25 points, 9 rebounds and five assists. Westbrook and Durant both seemed to take their time with their shots last night, putting up more from the field than they have averaged through this whole series.
The team as a whole shot just under 50 percent last night and Reggie Jackson added 16 points off the bench. Caron Butler also got the start last night over a struggling Thabo Sefalosha who didn’t even play in last night’s game.
Game 7 will be in Oklahoma City Saturday night.
Warriors outlast Clippers 100-99, force Game 7
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — After a first-round series filled with drama on the court and off it, the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers will put the focus back on basketball in the biggest way possible.
Next up: Game 7.
Stephen Curry scored 24 points and dished out nine assists, and the Warriors forced a winner-take-all series finale by outlasting the Clippers 100-99 Thursday night.
"We are going to a Game 7 despite all the sideline music, and I like my chances because I've got a group of guys that want to do whatever it takes to win," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said.
Andre Iguodala added 15 points, and Draymond Green had 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Warriors, handing Los Angeles one more obstacle to overcome in a week full of them after Clippers owner Donald Sterling earned a lifetime ban from the NBA for his racist remarks.
Game 7 is Saturday night in Los Angeles, where an inspired Clippers crowd rallying behind the motto "We Are One" will be on hand at Staples Center.
"It's exciting. A lot of guys in the locker room haven't been in a Game 7," said Curry, who shot 9 of 24.
The Warriors limited big men Blake Griffin (17 points, nine rebounds) and DeAndre Jordan (19 rebounds, nine points) even after center Jermaine O'Neal left with a sprained right knee in the second quarter. The Clippers simply ran out of time in the closing minute, missing three shots before Matt Barnes made a 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds to play.
Los Angeles fouled Curry, who missed both free throws. Green grabbed the rebound as the buzzer sounded, touching off a confetti-filled celebration throughout the gold-shirt wearing sellout crowd of 19,596, which packed an unusually warm Oracle Arena that rocked and roared throughout.
"It was one of those hustle games. Give them credit. I thought they came up with just enough plays to beat us," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.
West refuses to lose, leads Pacers by Hawks 95-88
ATLANTA (AP) — Three minutes from a far-sooner-than-expected summer vacation, the Indiana Pacers turned to their rock.
David West didn't let them down.
Now, it's back to Indianapolis for Game 7, the top-seeded Pacers giving themselves another chance to finally shake off the Atlanta Hawks.
West scored 24 points and led a 16-4 run to end the game, pushing Indiana to a 95-88 victory over the eighth-seeded Hawks that evened the series at three games apiece Thursday night.
Simply put, West refused to let the Pacers lose.
"When a team is making a run like that, and you're dealing with an eight seed trying to knock off a one seed in their building, and the place is erupting on every play, it's great to have somebody out there with that level of composure," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. "He just really settled everybody down.
"He's our rock," Vogel added. "There's no other way to put it."
After losing at home for the second time in the series, Indiana faced elimination in Atlanta. When the Hawks pushed out to an 84-79 lead with just over 3 minutes remaining, cheered on by a raucous crowd that barely sat down in the second half, the Pacers' improbable collapse seemed complete.
That's when West took over.
He scored four straight points, sandwiched around a huge steal, and hit two more baskets in the final minute to send the series back to Indiana for a decisive game on Saturday.
Paul George also scored 24 points for the Pacers, who have shown a willingness to change their physical, pack-the-lane style to cope with the Hawks' ability to spread the court.
It might be just enough to get them to the second round.
Spurs looking to finish off Mavericks in Dallas
DALLAS (AP) — Dirk Nowitzki is having flashbacks to the epic playoff series between Dallas and San Antonio in 2006.
Now would be the time for the Spurs to put any more similarities to rest.
Top-seeded San Antonio controls the first-round, best-of-seven series with the upstart Mavericks after taking a 3-2 lead with a 109-103 victory at home. The Spurs need to win Game 6 in Dallas on Friday night to avoid a winner-take-all scenario in South Texas.
Nowitzki remembers the only Game 7 between these Texas rivals well. His last-second, three-point play forced overtime in a second-round Dallas win that led to the franchise's first trip to the NBA Finals.
"The way you've got to look at it is you've got to win one home game," said Nowitzki, whose Mavericks were up 3-2 when they lost Game 6 in Dallas eight years ago. "We worry about everything else after that. Fun setup tomorrow, one game to win at home."
San Antonio's Big Three of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan don't want to revisit 2006, and they took a big step toward not having to with some help from Tiago Splitter in Game 5 on Wednesday.
Parker followed a crucial miss on an open jumper by Nowitzki with a 3-pointer that put the Spurs up seven with less than 2 minutes remaining. Before that, Splitter was a big part of a pick-and-roll offense that Dallas simply couldn't stop.
Duncan and Splitter both had double-doubles for the second straight game — a pair of San Antonio wins after the heavily favored Spurs fell behind 2-1 in the series. It was the third in a row for Splitter, who also had five assists.
Parker led the Spurs with 23 points and Ginobili, San Antonio's leading scorer in the series, had another strong game with 19.
The Spurs swept Dallas during the regular season mostly because of 3-point shooting. The Mavericks have done everything they can to keep from getting beat at the arc in this series, so San Antonio is averaging 49 points in the paint the past two games.
"We're taking what they give us," Duncan said. "So we have a little more of an ability to get in the lane, especially with Tony, and once he gets in there he is drawing a lot of attention, which leaves Tiago and I an opportunity to try and hit the glass and try and finish things up."
Asked about San Antonio's loud crowd, Nowitzki immediately remembered a deafening sound from 2006 when a 3-pointer from Ginobili looked like it had given the Spurs a series victory before Nowitzki's improbable layup and free throw after a Ginobili foul.
The big German had to be prompted for another memory from that year — Jason Terry's one-game suspension for punching former Dallas star Michael Finley.
The similarity this time is DeJuan Blair, just a year removed from playing for San Antonio. He was banned from Game 5 for kicking Splitter in the head, and the Mavericks missed him while the Spurs were repeatedly getting layups.
"Everybody in the world knows how anxious I am to get back out there and compete and try to get us to a Game 7," said Blair, who was having his best game of the series when he was ejected in Game 4. "I feel like I can bring that energy and toughness."
Nowitzki is coming off his best game of the series with 26 points and 15 rebounds. Vince Carter, who won Game 3 with a 3-pointer at the buzzer, kept Dallas in the game with 28 points on 7-of-9 shooting from long range.
And the Mavericks still didn't win.
"When guys have breakout games, we've got to turn them into Ws," Dallas defensive ace Shawn Marion said. "That's been the hardest thing to adjust to. The offense has been there. It's been up and down. But for the most part, you get stops, you can win."
And if the Mavericks win Friday night, the Spurs might be the ones having flashbacks.