The Oklahoma City Thunder punched their ticket to NBA’s Western Conference finals, eliminating the Los Angeles Lakers in five games with a dominating 106-90 victory on Monday 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, will 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 a while.
“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-off times after the 4-1 series loss.
The Thunder stole 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 on 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 (the) start of the second but then we ended up turning the ball over and they fed off our turnovers,” said Lakers coach Mike Brown.
In Massachusetts, 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 NBA 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 76ers 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 on Wednesday back in Philadelphia, with a seventh game, if necessary, in Beantown on Saturday.