LOS ANGELES – Neither team budged through three tight quarters. Then the Thunder went to a smaller lineup in the fourth and the Clippers’ defense shriveled.
Oklahoma City couldn’t be stopped in the final 12 minutes and went on to a 118-112 victory Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.
Kevin Durant scored 36 points, Russell Westbrook added 23 points and 13 assists, and Serge Ibaka, despite early foul trouble, had 20 points for the Thunder in a game that neither team ever led by double digits.
The Thunder have won two straight since getting blown out by 17 points in Game 1 at home.
“That loss definitely wasn’t our brand of basketball,” Durant said. “The first game they picked us apart. We don’t want to get beat like that again.”
Blake Griffin scored 34 points, and Chris Paul added 21 points and 16 assists for the Clippers, who saw their four-point lead disappear for good early in the fourth quarter. Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford added 20 points.
“They got everything,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “They got 3s, layups, key second shots. Down the stretch, they made every big play. We had shots, too, and they didn’t go in. We put way too much pressure on our offense because our defense wasn’t working.”
Oklahoma City led 113-107 on Durant’s turnaround jumper with 1:23 left. It followed Westbrook’s 3-pointer after the Clippers had closed within 108-107 when Griffin muscled in for a layup.
“We did a good job of weathering storms throughout the game and sticking together,” Durant said. “We’re going to have to do that even more next game if we want to win. It’s probably going to be the toughest game of the series.”
Game 4 is Sunday at Staples Center.
Pacers 85, Wizards 63
In Washington, with an emphasis on defense, Paul George, Roy Hibbert and the rest of the Pacers are suddenly performing the way they did at the start of the season.
And they don’t care how ugly the product might look.
Playing precisely the way they did to earn the No. 1 seed — before a late-season swoon — the Pacers held the Wizards to a franchise-low scoring total Friday night to win 85-63 and take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
“Listen, we don’t worry about if we’re looking good for TV. The other teams can do that, can fill that void with fancy basketball. We don’t worry about that,” Indiana forward David West said. “We’re OK with this. We can win games in the 80s.”
Set aside George’s 23 points, and neither team looked good on offense. Not at all. It was 17-all after the first quarter, and the Pacers led 34-33 at halftime, only the 13th time teams combined for 67 or fewer points in a playoff game in the shot-clock era, according to STATS.
After allowing 102 points in Washington’s Game 1 victory, Indiana has won two in a row, including holding the Wizards to 82 in Game 2.
Game 4 in the best-of-seven series is Sunday night in Washington.
“This was probably the ugliest game of the postseason thus far. This is our style of basketball,” said George, who helped limit Bradley Beal to 6-for-19 shooting.