OKLAHOMA CITY – Chris Paul got the best of Russell Westbrook in a matchup of two of the league’s best point guards.
Paul made a career-high eight 3-pointers and scored 32 points to help the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Thunder 122-105 Monday night in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series.
Paul, who had never made more than five 3-pointers in a game, also had 10 assists.
“It was just one of those nights,” he said. “This one will definitely go down in the history books for me. Don’t count on it for Game 2, I can tell you that.”
Though Paul is a career 36 percent 3-point shooter, he doesn’t usually shoot them so often. Once he started hitting them, he became increasingly aggressive. He made 8 of 9 on the night.
“When somebody’s got it going like that, you just try to stay out of the way as much as possible, but also help keep that fire going,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said.
Westbrook led the Thunder with 29 points on 9-for-14 shooting, but he had six turnovers and just four assists. Kevin Durant had 25 points and Serge Ibaka added 12 for the Thunder.
Oklahoma City thought it defended Paul relatively well.
“I thought on a lot of those 3s, especially early in the game, we had a hand in his face and a hand in his shots,” Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha said. “So we did a decent job, but those shots went in, and that boosted their whole team.”
The Thunder suffered their worst home loss since moving to Oklahoma City.
“We have to get more physical,” Durant said. “I’m not talking about hard fouls, I’m talking about jamming the lane, fighting through screens and not letting guys run free. We just have to be more physical.”
Griffin scored 23 points, Jamal Crawford had 17 and J.J. Redick added 12 for the Clippers. Game 2 is Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.
Both teams were coming off Game 7 wins in the first round on Saturday night, but only the Thunder looked weary. Oklahoma City opened by taking a 16-10 lead, but the Clippers responded with a 24-6 run. Paul hit five 3-pointers in the first quarter, matching his career high for 3s in a playoff game in the first 12 minutes. Los Angeles shot 67 percent in the first quarter to take a 39-25 lead.
“I’ve never seen him this aggressive,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “He felt like he needed to set the tone.”
Los Angeles extended its lead to 24 points in the second quarter and took a 69-52 halftime lead, with Paul getting 22 points and six assists.
Durant and Westbrook scored 16 points each in the first half, but the Thunder committed 11 turnovers before halftime.
A quick 3-pointer and a pull-up jumper by Paul pushed the Clippers’ lead to 78-56 in the opening minutes of the third quarter. Los Angeles reached 100 points with just over a minute left in the period and led 104-78 heading into the fourth quarter.
The score that matters to the Thunder is 1-0. They were behind 2-1 and 3-2 against Memphis in the first round and rallied to win the series.
“We just understand that we don’t go into Game 2 with a 17-point lead,” Paul said. “You know, you’ve just got to come back and be hungry and not be satisfied with one.”
Wizards 102, Pacers 96
In Indianapolis, Bradley Beal scored 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, Trevor Ariza added 22 and Washington held off the Pacers with a stout defense over the final 7½ minutes for a Game 1 win in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
It was the Wizards’ first second-round win in 32 years.
“We know it’s a tough building to play in. We haven’t won here in a while,” Ariza said after Washington snapped a 12-game losing streak in Indy. “Why wouldn’t this be the best time to come here and get a win — in the playoffs?”
The Wizards know there is a lot more work to do in this best-of-seven series.
Game 2 is Wednesday in Indianapolis.
So far, though, things have gone well for the upstart Wizards.
After clinching their first playoff berth since 2008, Washington has advanced to the second round for the first time since 2005, won at Indiana for the first time since April 18, 2007, and has its first second-round win since April 28, 1982. The Wizards have opened these playoffs with four straight road wins and put the pressure right back on the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
It doesn’t get better than that for a young team that beat Chicago 4-1 in the opening round.
“The way I think about it, I’m 20 years old, I’m playing in the playoffs, something I’ve always dreamed of. Why not embrace it?” Beal said. “Why not accept the challenge and have fun with it? That’s all I’m doing — having fun.”
For the Pacers, it was another kick in the pants.
After salvaging their season with two straight wins to beat Atlanta in seven games, Indiana lost Game 1 for the second straight series and for many of the same reasons.
The Pacers were outrebounded 53-36 and were outscored 19-5 on second-chance points. They got beat outside as Washington made a franchise playoff-record 10 3-pointers with Ariza going 6 of 6. They got no points and no rebounds from the 218-cm center Roy Hibbert, who has looked nothing like the All-Star he was during the first half of the season.
And when they were desperately trying to rally in the fourth quarter, Indiana went 7 minutes without a basket.
Things got so frustrating that even the emotional Lance Stephenson lost his cool and snapped at coach Frank Vogel when he was yanked with 1 minute to play in the third quarter. Vogel said he took Stephenson out because he didn’t want him playing 48 minutes. Stephenson said he was mostly mad at himself.
“I waited too late,” Stephenson said. “Third quarter was too late to turn (it) up. I mean we need to come out first quarter and turn (it) up and get everybody going so the second half we could already have that pace.”
Paul George and George Hill scored 18 points each to lead the Pacers, though half of Hill’s points came on three 3s in the final minute when it was too late to come back. David West added 15 points and 12 rebounds.
The Wizards trailed once all game, 31-30, and retook the lead on the ensuing possession.
But Washington won this one in large part because it beat Indiana at its own game.
Marcin Gortat had 15 rebounds, six on the offensive end where Washington held a 17-6 advantage. The defense limited Indiana to 40.7 percent shooting and never allowed them to get closer than six points until the final minute of the game.
By then it was too late.
Washington jumped to an 8-0 lead and led 28-15 lead at the end of the first quarter.
After the Pacers charged back to take the lead, the Wizards closed the half with a decisive 17-6 run to make it 56-43.
Washington took its biggest lead of the game, 68-52, midway through the third quarter with Indiana in full catch-up mode. The Pacers got within six late in the third, within seven early in the fourth and within five when Hill hit a 3 with 23.6 seconds to go.
That was as close as Indiana got.