On Thursday night, The Los Angeles Clippers' season ended at Staples Center in a 104-98 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
One of the most widely overused and misused phrase in all of sport is “must-win.”
On Thursday, the Clippers faced the harsh reality that a loss would end their season. Down 3-2 in a best-of-seven series with the Thunder, Game 6 at Staples Center was a true “must-win” for the home side.
Before the game, Clippers coach Doc Rivers believed his guys were ready to play, and in the first quarter, the coach was right.
The Clippers scored 30 points in the opening 12 minutes and led by 14 at the end of the first quarter. Sharing the ball was on the menu, as five Clippers had five or more points, and Chris Paul led the way with five assists. Not surprisingly, Blake Griffin led all scorers with nine points, and the Clippers’ star forward also added three assists and two block shots at that early point in the contest.
For the Thunder, the deficiencies were everywhere. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had combined for more fouls than made shots. After missing their first nine shots, the Thunder’s superstar tandem finished the period with one made shot in 11 attempts.
In the second quarter, the foul discrepancy became difficult to ignore. Kendrick Perkins and Steven Adams had three fouls at the intermission, and six of Oklahoma City’s players had two or more fouls entering the locker room. In sharp contrast, only two Clippers, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, had multiple fouls attributed to them, and both only had two.
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However, the second quarter was not simply a one-sided whistling competition. Durant fought through the distractions and got his team back into the game. The NBA’s reining MVP scored 11 points in the quarter and got his team within eight points at the halftime buzzer.
In the third period, Durant continued building on his strong second quarter. The lanky forward scored 14 points in the third period, matching his output for the first two quarters, and putting him at 28 points for the game. As the quarter wore on, the Clippers’ lead shrunk. By the time the teams went their respective benches at the end of the period, the game was level at 72-72.
With 12 minutes to play and the game tied, Game 6 was setting up for yet another memorable fourth quarter.
For the Clippers, it would quickly turn into a quarter to forget, as the season came to a crashing halt. Westbrook and Durant stepped up and scored 13 of the Thunder’s first 15 points in the quarter, giving the visitors a seven-point lead. With six minutes remaining in the game, the Thunder’s lead would increase to 10 points, and nerves and fear began to creep into the Clippers’ fans.
After a bad call, Rivers was animated and expressing his frustrations to the officials during a timeout. Then, a fan from the crowd threw his drink at an official and hit his target. The fan was escorted out of the arena, as the official and court were dried off.
The event served to bring the crowd together, and the Clippers would make one final run at the game.
With about 30 seconds to play, the Clippers trailed by six points and got an open look at the rim, but the shot did not go down. From there on out, free throws decided the occasion, and the Clippers season ended in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
Durant finished with 39 points and 15 rebounds, and Paul finished with 25 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.