OKLAHOMA CITY – Kevin Durant stood before his adoring home crowd, proudly holding his MVP trophy above his head during a pregame ceremony.
He spent the next few hours showing how he earned it.
Durant had 32 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Los Angeles Clippers 112-101 on Wednesday night to tie their Western Conference semifinal series at one game apiece.
“We wanted to come back and respond,” Durant said. “So, I think that’s what fueled the team tonight. We just went out there and played extremely well and left it all out there, and came out with a good ‘W.’ “
During his emotional MVP acceptance speech on Tuesday, Durant called teammate Russell Westbrook an MVP-caliber player. Westbrook backed up Durant’s words with 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his third triple-double in his past five playoff games.
“I think Russ played harder than all of us combined,” Clippers guard Chris Paul said. “He was all over the place.”
Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks took Durant out of the game with 1:21 remaining, costing him a shot at the triple-double. According to information provided to the Thunder by the Elias Sports Bureau, no pair of teammates has had triple-doubles in the same playoff game.
Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha each scored 14 points for Oklahoma City, which shot 51 percent from the field and outrebounded the Clippers 52-36.
“It was the perfect storm,” Los Angeles guard Jamal Crawford said. “They did everything they could to win, and they got everything they wanted tonight. . . .”
J.J. Redick scored 18 points, Paul had 17 points and 11 assists, and Blake Griffin added 15 points for the Clippers. Los Angeles made 15 of 29 3-pointers in Game 1, but just 9 of 27 in Game 2.
The Clippers will host Game 3 Friday in Los Angeles.
Durant scored 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting in the first quarter to help the Thunder take a 37-28 lead. Paul, who scored 17 points in the opening quarter of Game 1, went scoreless in the first quarter of Game 2 and watched most of the period from the bench with two fouls as the hosts took control early.
Oklahoma City got an offensive boost from an unlikely source in the third quarter — Sefolosha, a defensive stopper. He hit a mid-range jumper, then dunked after a steal by Westbrook to give the Thunder a 78-66 lead. Sefolosha dunked again, then got a steal that led to a 3-pointer by Westbrook and gave Oklahoma City a 90-73 advantage.
Sefolosha, who had averaged just 3.7 points in the playoffs, scored 12 points in the quarter to help the Thunder take a 94-77 lead into the fourth. Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he expected Durant and Westbrook to score, but not Sefolosha.
“We can win if they (Durant and Westbrook) both have good offensive games,” Rivers said. “What we can’t do is then give them that plus everything else. And I thought that’s what happened tonight.”
Westbrook clinched his triple-double with 1:21 remaining when he was credited with an assist after a pass to Sefolosha, who took two dribbles on his drive to the basket.
Rivers said the Thunder were the aggressors.
“Every single possession, you have to have great focus and you have to be locked in, and today we were not,” he said. “I thought it was because of all the clutter today. We’re upset at the officials, we’re upset at everything instead of turning our anger on the opponent and focus. Tonight we just didn’t have it.”
Pacers 86, Wizards 82
In Indianapolis, Big Roy came up with a big answer for his critics and his teammates.
He played like an All-Star when the Pacers really needed it.
After 48 hours of questions and criticism, Roy Hibbert scored a season-high 28 points, grabbed nine rebounds, blocked two shots and altered a handful of others to help the Pacers get even in the Eastern Conference semifinals with a victory over Washington.
Hibbert sounded more relieved than redeemed.
“David (West) always talks to me about being the person that rescues yourself when you’re in the middle of the ocean,” Hibbert said after Indiana tied the best-of-seven series at 1-1. “There’s nobody who can throw a lifesaver or a rope out to help you. So I had to do it myself.”
The next step is proving he can play this way again Friday when Washington hosts Game 3.
Hibbert went into Wednesday with a combined total of 37 points and 24 rebounds in Indiana’s first eight playoff games. Twice in the previous four he failed to score a point or grab a rebound.
Beleaguered Pacers fans wanted Hibbert benched. Frustrated teammates talked publicly and privately about needing more from their 218-cm center. Critics turned Hibbert into the butt of jokes and on the Internet, some even tried to explain Hibbert’s incredible disappearing act with unseemly speculation.
Marcin Gortat had 21 points and 11 rebounds and Bradley Beal added 17 for the Wizards.
Brazilian center Nene added 14 points and John Wall dished out eight assists for Washington, but shot 2-for-13 from the field.