OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma, May 22 – The Oklahoma City Thunder punched their ticket to the Western Conference finals, eliminating the Los Angeles Lakers in five games with a dominating 106-90 victory night.
Russell Westbrook scored 28 points, Kevin Durant had 25 for the Thunder who took a playoff series from the Lakers for the first time since 1979.
“Tonight we came out with a lot of energy and fought through some adversity,” Durant said. “I been through some tough times with this team but we all got better as individuals.”
The Thunder, four years after relocating to the Oklahoma capital, now face the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs for a place in the NBA finals.
The Spurs swept the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers in the first two rounds and have won 18 games in a row dating back to the regular season.
“It is going to be a mental challenge,” Westbrook said of facing the Spurs. “We got to play a team that hasn’t lost in awhile.
“We have to be able to win in San Antonio. They are a team that has been together for awhile. I been watching them all playoffs and they got a lot of tricks.”
On Saturday, the Lakers were just seconds away from deadlocking their series at 2-2 with Oklahoma City. Now 48 hours later they are booking tee times after the 4-1 series loss.
The Thunder stole the game four from the Lakers, getting a go-ahead three-pointer from Durant with 13.7 seconds left en route to a 103-100 comeback win that proved to be the turning point of the series.
“I just stuck with it,” said Thunder guard James Harden who finished with 17 points Monday. “In the fourth quarter in every single game we stuck with it and got it done. I am ready for next series.”
Kobe Bryant scored 42 points, Pau Gasol had 14 points and 16 rebounds for the Lakers who beat the Thunder just once in the regular season.
“The group we had did a great job at start of the second but then we ended up turning the ball over and they fed off our turnovers,” said Lakers coach Mike Brown.
The Oklahoma City franchise earned just their second road playoff win over the Lakers in their last 15 tries. Their first road playoff win against the Lakers was in 1980 when the franchise was still located in Seattle.
In the playoffs, this rivalry dates back to 1978 when the franchise was known as the SuperSonics. The Sonics beat the Lakers in 1978 and 1979 when they reached the NBA finals both times. They hadn’t beaten Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, Brandon Bass scored a game-high 27 points as the Boston Celtics defeated Philadelphia 101-85 in crucial game five to take a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference series.
Kevin Garnett scored 20 points, Paul Pierce had 16 and Rajon Rondo finished with 13 points and 14 assists for the Celtics who outscored the Sixers 28-16 in the third quarter of Monday’s game.
“When you have a point guard like Rondo the ball has a way of finding you,” Bass said. “I was able to knock them down.”
Game six of the best-of-seven series takes place Wednesday back in Philadelphia, with a seventh game, if necessary, in Beantown on Saturday.
Forward Bass scored 18 of his 27 points in the third for the Celtics who were given the day off Sunday by coach Doc Rivers so several of their banged up veterans could heal their wounds.
The 34-year-old Pierce has been dealing with a sprained MCL is his left knee, while Ray Allen, 36, is playing with bone spurs in his right ankle. Garnett turned 36 on Saturday. Allen had just five points on Monday.
To make matters worse, guard Avery Bradley is playing with a left shoulder that needs surgery. It has popped out of the socket at least four times this season.
With so many stars playing hurt the Celtics needed some help from an unlikely source and Bass provided the answer on Monday.
Sparked by Bass, Boston turned a six-point deficit into a six-point lead in the first half of the third.
Elton Brand led Philadelphia with 19 points and Lavoy Allen came off the bench to score a dozen. Brand had just seven points in the second half.
This rivalry began back in 1949-50 when the 76ers were based in Syracuse.
The 76ers and Celtics have met in the postseason 11 times with Boston winning seven of those.
at Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City 106 Los Angeles Lakers 90
(Oklahoma City wins series 4-1)
Boston 101 Philadelphia 85
(Boston leads series 3-2)