Thunder win Game 6, eliminate Clippers
Lost in the emotion of the Thunder's stunning Game 5 victory Tuesday night in Oklahoma City was Kevin Durant's late arrival.
Durant, absent for much of the game, joining the rest of his teammates in a performance that looked uninspired and apathetic, scored 10 points in the final 4 minutes after going 3-of-17 from the field up until then.
But Durant was pretty visible Thursday in Game 6.
A slow start turned into a smooth burn as Durant closed out the Clippers.
And it wasn't because of a late rally or some sort of highlight, hero shot.
This was Beats by Durant and the Thunder won, 104-98.
The MVP had 39 points, 16 rebounds and five assists after a forgettable first quarter as the Thunder fell behind by double digits, but the formula that's worked all year - actually for pretty much the past four years - worked again.
Durant went big, Russell Westbrook did his part and the two got just enough help and that's the reason the Thunder are back in the Western Conference Final for the third time in the past four seasons and will take on San Antonio in San Antonio Monday night in Game 1.
The Thunder won 59 games this regular season but they've won a pair of playoff series because Durant has made it so. Bulldogged by Tony Allen for five frustrating games, Durant got loose in Game 6 in the first round helping the Thunder avoid elimination. He did it again in Game 7.
And against the Clippers, beaten and down through three quarters in Game 5, Durant got going late. Slow start once again Thursday when Durant started the game 1-for-7 in the first quarter.
"Kevin got hot. Give Kevin credit," coach Scott Brooks said.
He's gotten it all year. He should get more for Thursday's performance coming against the more-desperate team. Playing at home. In an elimination game.
Durant finished 12-of-23, made all 10 free throws, played 44 minutes and was the best player on the court.
"We have a lot of guys who can play and a lot of guys who are accepting their roles," forward Nick Collison said.
The roles worked out well Thursday. Steven Adams played the best game of his career, getting 40 minutes, a lot of it due to Serge Ibaka only playing 26 and leaving with a calf injury. Adams made 5-of-7 shots, had 10 points and 11 rebounds. Collison made a game-tying 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter and played 17 minutes. Reggie Jackson had 14 points in 31 minutes.
A game after Westbrook carried the Thunder to a 3-2 lead, Durant took his place at the head of the table.
This was the kind of game when you'll say, "Remember when." From the second quarter when he made three-consecutive 3-pointers, to the third quarter when he went 5-of-5 from the field, including a 29-foot, 3-pointer, to the end of the game when he wound up 11-of-16 from the field after the first quarter.
"Oklahoma City absolutely deserves it," Chris Paul said.
Because Kevin Durant took it.
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK