The Los Angeles Clippers, Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City all capitalized on home-court advantage to win their respective Game 7s on Saturday, progressing to the second round of the NBA playoffs. LA beat California rival Golden State 126-121, Indiana won 92-80 to finally see off 8th-seeded Atlanta, and Oklahoma City defeated Memphis 120-109.
Los Angeles’ Blake Griffin scored 24 points, Chris Paul had 22 points and 14 assists and Jamal Crawford added 22 as the Clippers won only a playoff series for only the third time in 38 years. They did so against a backdrop of uncertainty about the future of the team, which is likely to be put up for sale following the life ban on owner Donald Sterling for racist remarks.
Los Angeles will face Oklahoma City in the second round, with the Thunder hosting the opening game on Monday.
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Stephen Curry had 33 points and nine assists while Draymond Green added 24 for Golden State, which blew a late lead and lost a Game 7 for the first time in 37 years. Curry hit three free throws with 30 seconds left, and Green hit a 3-pointer to trim the lead to 120-118. But J.J. Redick hit two more free throws to ice it for the Clippers.
The game could have been the last for Golden State coach Mark Jackson, who might be on shaky ground with Warriors ownership despite presiding over the long-struggling franchise’s best two-year stretch in two decades.
Indiana’s Paul George scored a playoff career-high 30 points to lead the Pacers past Atlanta. They staved off elimination for the second time in three days. It’s the first time since mid-March the Pacers’ regular starters have won back-to-back games.
The Pacers will be back on their home floor Monday against Washington in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Kyle Korver scored 19 points and Jeff Teague had 16 for Atlanta, which won just 38 games in the regular season but proved to be a tough opponent for the Pacers. The game turned on a 24-6 run over a 10:02 stretch that spanned the second and third quarters. That gave Indiana a 57-40 lead it never surrendered.
Roy Hibbert, who scored just 20 points total in the first four games, had a series-high 13 points and seven rebounds for the Pacers. The Pacers finished with a 55-38 rebounding edge and with Hibbert clogging the way, the Hawks were forced to rely primarily on 3-pointers. Atlanta wound up just 11 of 44 from beyond the arc.
Oklahoma City was led to victory over Memphis by star pairing Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Durant scored 33 points while Westbrook had a triple-double of 27 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds.
The gritty Grizzlies, playing without leading scorer Zach Randolph because of a suspension, led by 11 points in the first half before the Thunder overwhelmed them and shot 66 percent after the break.
Marc Gasol led Memphis with 24 points. Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley had 20 points and nine assists while playing with a strained right hamstring.
Durant, slowed for much of the series, looked like his normal self. The regular-season scoring champion made 12 of 18 field goals and all five of his 3-pointers after struggling from long range throughout the series.