Spurs put Clippers on the brinkLOS ANGELES
— A late three-pointer by Kevin Durant capped a dramatic fight-back by the Oklahoma City Thunder as they left the Los Angeles Lakers on the verge of playoff elimination with a 103-100 win in Game Four Saturday.
The second-seeded Thunder stormed from 11 points behind early in the final quarter to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series.
Forward Durant finished with 31 points and 13 rebounds while guard Russell Westbrook weighed in with 37 points as Oklahoma City stunned a sellout crowd at Staples Center that had sensed a home win.
At the other end, the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs pushed the Los Angeles Clippers to the brink of elimination from the NBA playoffs with an astonishing 96-86 comeback win in Game Three.
Trailing by 24 points early in the second quarter, the Spurs seized control through All-Stars Tony Parker and Tim Duncan to take a commanding 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series.
Kobe Bryant, however, led the way for the third-seeded Lakers with a game-high 38 points and eight rebounds but his team were ultimately let down by poor shooting, a rash of turnovers and a leaking defense over the closing stretch.
Trailing by 11 points with just under eight minutes remaining, the Thunder steadily clawed their way back before a layup shot by center Kendrick Perkins put them ahead 98-96 with 1.16 minutes left.
Though Bryant made two free throws to tie the score at 98-98, Durant poured in a three-pointer to give Oklahoma City welcome breathing space with 13.7 left on the clock.
Two free throws by reserve guard James Harden gave the visitors a 103-98 cushion before a Bryant jump shot on the buzzer lifted the Lakers into three figures.
In front of a packed Staples Center crowd, the lead changed hands seven times in a closely contested first quarter before the Lakers ended it with a rousing 8-2 run to go 29-24 up.
Los Angeles tightened its grip in the second quarter, suffocating defense and strong rebounding helping it into a 56-46 lead by halftime.
Though the Thunder twice cut the deficit to seven as Westbrook found a hot hand, Bryant scored with a jump shot to put Los Angeles ahead 80-71 going into the final quarter.
Oklahoma City then mounted their stirring comeback.
In the Western Conference guard Parker recorded 23 points and 10 assists while towering forward Duncan weighed in with 19 points and 13 rebounds as San Antonio extended its unbeaten run to 17 games, including seven in the playoffs.
Blake Griffin, despite playing with a left hip injury and a sprained right knee, led the way for the Clippers with 28 points and 16 rebounds but his heart-broken team paid the penalty for poor free shooting, making only 50 percent from the stripe.
The fast-paced Clippers made a rousing start in front of a sellout crowd of 19,060, racing into a 27-9 lead after a sizzling 14-0 run sparked by forward Griffin before ending the first quarter 33-11 ahead.
The Staples Center was a vocal sea of red with most of the home fans wearing giveaway red T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Clipper Nation All In.”
Los Angeles briefly stretched its lead to 24 points when Nick Young poured in a three-pointer but, with Parker and Duncan beginning to make an impact, the Spurs cut the deficit to 53-43 by halftime.
San Antonio tightened their defense and, as the Clippers struggled to find the basket, the visitors took the lead for the first time at 59-57 after a Duncan fadeaway jump shot capped a stirring 14-0 run. — Reuters