LOS ANGELES – After being thoroughly outplayed for over 40 minutes, the Los Angeles Clippers fought back.
Leading the way was a player not known for coming up big in the clutch.
Darren Collison scored eight of his 18 points in the final 2:58, rallying the Clippers past the Oklahoma City Thunder 101-99 on Sunday to tie the Western Conference semifinal series 2-2.
“Even though we didn’t play well throughout the game, we were able to get a win,” Collison said. “That feels more impressive than anything we did.”
Russell Westbrook, who scored 27 points, missed a 3-pointer and Serge Ibaka’s tip attempt was too late at the buzzer, allowing the Clippers to salvage a game they trailed until the final 1:23.
“It was a good look,” Westbrook said. “Just didn’t go in.”
Blake Griffin led Los Angeles with 25 points, making 9 of 11 free throws. Jamal Crawford added 18 points. DeAndre Jordan had 14 rebounds, helping the Clippers win the boards, 45-43 — the first time in 11 playoff games the Thunder were outrebounded.
“We just willed this one. We found a way,” said Chris Paul, who had 23 points and 10 assists.
Kevin Durant scored 40 points, hitting 15 of 18 free throws, for the Thunder.
“We let this one slip away,” he said. “We could have took control of the series.”
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.
“We were almost on the mat and we got off of it. We didn’t get pinned,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “They’re seething right now. They had an opportunity to go up 3-1 and now it’s an even series.”
It was the 14th comeback — and largest yet — by the Clippers this season after trailing by double digits. They rallied from 12 points down in the second quarter of Game 7 to oust Golden State in the first round.
“This is one of the best ones yet,” Paul said. “Darren Collison was amazing. You just got to love a guy like that who plays with so much heart and never gives up.”
The Clippers had no answer for Durant and Westbrook until midway through the fourth quarter. That dynamic duo drove the lane with abandon, drew fouls and made free throws in leading the Thunder to an early 22-point lead.
Durant’s three-point play early in the fourth extended the Thunder’s lead to 15 points, and they were still up by 10 with 7:44 to go.
But the comeback Clippers were not to be denied.
“Everybody kept telling each other, ‘Chip away, chip away,’ ” Griffin said. “That was kind of our mentality for the rest of the game. We just kept fighting.”
Pacers 95, Wizards 92
In Washington, Paul George had a career playoff-high 39 points and added 12 rebounds to lead the Pacers back from a 19-point deficit and past the Wizards to move one victory away from returning to the Eastern Conference finals.
The Pacers lead the second-round series 3-1 and can close it out Tuesday night at home in Game 5.
George played 46 minutes and scored 28 points after halftime Sunday, including making six of his franchise playoff-record-tying seven 3-pointers.
“I kept wanting to try to get him a rest, and he kept saying, ‘No,’ ” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “And usually I’ll override that, but he kept making big shots, too.”
Roy Hibbert had 17 points and nine rebounds, continuing his recent surge after a poor-as-can-be start to the series, the zero-point, zero-rebound showing in a Game 1 loss.
But he has responded with 28 points in Game 2, then 14 in Game 3, before helping Indiana win its third consecutive game Sunday, when Hibbert said he got a motivational boost from what he called a heckling fan.
“He woke me up,” Hibbert said. “He said I was tired. He was saying a lot of obscenities. I’m a God-fearing man, so I’m not going to go ahead and say what he was saying.”
The Pacers now head home knowing only eight teams in NBA history have ever blown a 3-1 lead in a playoff series.
They also know they’re playing much more like the team that pushed the Miami Heat to seven games in last season’s conference finals. Or the one that earned the No. 1 seeding by going 46-13 at the start of this season. And they’re looking far less like the team that went 10-13 down the stretch this year, then needed seven games to eke past eighth-seeded Atlanta in the first round.