The Oklahoma City Thunder stole back the home court with a hard-fought 118-112 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night at Staples Center.
The Thunder and Clippers squared off for Game 3 of their best of seven Western Conference Semifinals with the series tied at 1-1. Both teams were desperate to gain an early advantage in the series, and with the Clippers' victory in Game 1, Chris Paul and company only needed to win their home games to progress to the Western Conference Finals.
On Friday night at Staples Center, the Clippers hosted their first game against the Thunder, and Blake Griffin's role in the game and series was under the microscope. Both coaches spent significant time in their pregame press conferences commenting on Griffin's relative lack of impact on the series in the first two games.
After starting strong on Friday night, the Clippers cooled off, making for a competitive contest at Staples Center. At the half, the Clippers held a slight 63-61 advantage. Paul led the way with 14 points and eight assists, while Griffin added 16 points to the equation. For the Thunder, Kevin Durant led all scorers with 21 points, while Russell Westbrook tabbed 13 points and five assists and five rebounds in the first half.
In the third quarter, Durant's hot hand contined to dominate the game, but the game also featured a couple hot heads. Matt Barnes and Serge Ibaka were both hit with technical fouls for some words exchanged following a hard foul. Those two technical fouls put the tally at four non-basketball related fouls in the game: Paul and Durant were hit with double technical fouls in the first half for chirping at one another. Later, Reggie Jackson would increase that tally to five, reflecting the heated nature of Friday's game.
By the time the third quarter ended, the Clippers led 90-86, and Durant led all scorers with 29 points. Westbrook was flirting with a triple-double and had 17 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds with 12 minutes to play.
For the Clippers, Paul entered the final stanza with 20 points and 13 assists. Griffin kept steadily adding to this total and was up to 22 points entering the fourth quarter before finishing with 34 for the game.
Hidden behind the stars, Ibaka was perfect from the field for 16 points through three quarters. In the fourth quarter, Ibaka would finally miss a shot, but his 20 points proved to be the extra edge the Thunder required to hold off the Clippers.
Ultimately, Westbrook did not get the triple double, but the league MVP, Durant, lived up to his title. The lanky forward finished with 36 points, eight rebounds and six assists, and the Thunder took back their home court advantage.
The next game of this series will be at Staples Center on Sunday.