Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 53 points as the Oklahoma City Thunder reached the National Basketball Association’s Western Conference finals with a 106-90 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Boston Celtics defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 101-85 in yesterday’s first NBA game, pulling away during the second half to move within a win of the Eastern Conference finals.
The Thunder withstood a 42-point effort from the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant last night in Oklahoma City return to the West finals for the second straight year. The Thunder won the best- of-seven series four games to one and will face the San Antonio Spurs, who are riding an 18-game win streak, for a spot in the NBA Finals.
“It looks like they never make mistakes,” Durant, who had 25 points and 10 rebounds, said of the Spurs. “They’re well- coached and they have a lot of veteran guys. It’s going to be a tough series, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Westbrook had 28 points, including eight during a 14-3 third-quarter scoring run that gave the Thunder the lead for good. Oklahoma City then outscored Los Angeles 23-13 in the fourth quarter to pull away for the victory.
“Let’s give credit where credit is due,” said the Lakers’ Metta World Peace. “They were the better team.”
Pau Gasol added 14 points and 16 rebounds for Los Angeles, while World Peace had 11 points and after the game shook hands with Oklahoma City’s James Harden. World Peace was suspended seven games by the NBA last month for elbowing Harden in the head and giving him a concussion.
After winning NBA titles in 2009 and 2010, the Lakers have been ousted in the conference semifinals the past two years.
Bass Leads Celtics
At TD Garden in Boston, Brandon Bass scored 18 of his 27 points in the third quarter, when the Celtics outscored the 76ers 28-16 to take the lead for good.
Kevin Garnett added 20 points, Paul Pierce had 16 and Rajon Rondo finished with 13 points and 14 assists for the Celtics, who take a three-games-to-two lead in the best-of-seven playoff series.
“When you’re on a team with a point guard like Rondo, the ball will happen to find you and I was able to make some shots,” Bass said in a televised interview.
Philadelphia will host Game 6 tomorrow, with a decisive seventh game, if necessary, scheduled for May 26 in Boston.
The series winner will play the Miami Heat or the Indiana Pacers for a place in the NBA Finals. That series resumes tonight in Miami with the teams tied at 2-2 in games.
Elton Brand scored 19 points to lead the 76ers, whose two wins came after Boston took leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in the series.
Philadelphia by six points early in the second half before the Celtics took control. Boston ended the third quarter with a 10-2 scoring run to break open a one-point game and Bass outscored the 76ers 18-16 in the period.
The Celtics pushed their lead to as many as 20 points during the fourth quarter.
“We did not meet the tenacity that they played with from the middle of the third quarter on,” said Sixers coach Doug Collins.
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