In order to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Los Angeles Clippers face a do or die matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Six of their second-round series Thursday night at Staples Center.
Following their seven-point collapse in the final 50 seconds of Game Five, the Clippers need the series to head back to Oklahoma City for a decisive Game Seven for the second straight round.
The best ways Los Angeles can extend the series involve closing out much better in the fourth quarter, while finding some way to contain Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and keeping center DeAndre Jordan out of foul trouble.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers publicly blamed poor officiating and the NBA’s replay system for his team’s loss in Game Five and Thursday was fined $25,000 by the league. Rivers specifically questioned the officials for calling Clippers forward Matt Barnes the last to touch the ball before it went out of bounds after a drive to the lane by Thunder guard Reggie Jackson late in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City was given possession and Westbrook made a steal and sunk two free throws to seal the 105-104 comeback win.
Whether valid or not, Rivers complaints can’t contain Westbrook, who lit Los Angeles up for 38 points with 23 of those coming in the second half.
Now averaging 29.6 points in the series, Westbrook also dropped six assists along with five rebounds and three steals in Game Five and took some of the pressure off Kevin Durant down the stretch in the victory that put Oklahoma City up 3-2 in the series with the opportunity to reach the Western Conference finals for the third time in four years.
Durant scored 12 of his 27 points from the free-throw line to make up for a poor 6-for-22 shooting night while also pulling down 10 rebounds. Rookie center Steven Adams came off the bench for nine key points and four boards and Jackson coupled his eight points with seven rebounds
L.A.’s defense struggled throughout Game Five largely due to Jordan fouling out with only 20 minutes logged. The Thunder in turn feasted inside with 44 points in the paint. Tops in the league in rebounding and third in blocks during the regular season, Jordan didn’t make a basket and pulled down four boards with zero blocks.
Blake Griffin did his part to make up for the loss of Jordan with 24 points and a playoff-high 17 rebounds, and point guard Chris Paul recorded his fifth straight double-double with 17 points and 14 assists.
The Thunder have held a 3-2 series lead three other times, and have knocked an opponent out twice: San Antonio in the 2012 conference finals, and Houston last year in the first round.
Start Time: 10:30 p.m. EST
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Stream Info: A live online stream is available at Watch ESPN here.
Betting Odds: Clippers -4.5
Over/Under: 212 points
Prediction: Clippers over Thunder, 102-99