OKC ousts NBA champs; Clips, Pacers get close wins
DALLAS (AP) — James Harden scored 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter as Oklahoma City rallied for a 103-97 victory Saturday night to sweep the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks out of the playoffs.
The Thunder trailed by 13 points with 9:44 left before Harden scored seven in a row, and nine in a 12-0 run over the next 3 minutes.
Oklahoma City finally took the lead, and kept it, after Russell Westbrook stole the ball from Dirk Nowitzki and passed to Serge Ibaka for a two-handed slam that made it 92-91 with 5:17 left.
Dallas is the second defending champion in five years to be swept in the first round. After beating the Mavericks in the 2006 NBA Finals, Miami lost in four games to Chicago the next year.
CLIPPERS 87, GRIZZLIES 86
LOS ANGELES (AP) — If the Los Angeles Clippers hadn’t been so inept at the free throw line, Rudy Gay’s last-second shot wouldn’t have mattered.
Chris Paul had 24 points and 11 assists and high-flying Blake Griffin added 17 points for the Clippers, who beat the Memphis Grizzles 87-86 Saturday only after Gay missed a 3-pointer just before the buzzer.
“That’s the way we planned it,” Paul joked. “They aren’t going to give us anything. They’re never out of the game with an electrifying scorer like Rudy Gay.”
The Clippers won their first home playoff game in six seasons to take a 2-1 series lead in the Western Conference playoffs. Game 4 is Monday night.
The long-suffering Clippers fans, who turned Staples Center into a sea of red, very easily could have gone home disappointed.
PACERS 101, MAGIC 99, OT
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Indiana Pacers have looked like a team with enough talent to win in the playoffs.
After wasting a big lead in Game 4 against the Magic, the Pacers showed they have the late-game toughness to win as well.
George Hill hit a pair of free throws with 2.2 seconds left in overtime to help Indiana survive squandering a 19-point fourth quarter lead and beat the Orlando Magic 101-99 on Saturday to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series.
David West scored 26 points, including 12 in the third quarter and four in overtime for Indiana. Danny Granger added 21 points.
The Pacers won their third straight game and will try to close out the Eastern Conference series Tuesday in Indianapolis and get out of the opening round for the first time since 2005.
“They did a great job of coming back,” said Granger, who returned to the game in the fourth quarter after spraining his right knee in the third. “That was a momentum win. They had a lot of momentum going. We’re lucky to get out of here.”
Indiana coach Frank Vogel echoed that fortunate feeling, but said he also likes being in the spot his team is in now.
“Yeah, it’s a good place to be,” he said. “We feel like we can get a win on our home court. It’s tough to get a road win anywhere against anyone in the playoffs. To come in here in a tough environment and get two, it just speaks volumes of our guys’ resiliency.”
Orlando had a final chance to tie the game in the closing seconds, but Glen Davis’ fade away jumper bounced off the side of the rim.
Jason Richardson led the Magic with 25 points and Davis added 24 points and 11 rebounds.
The Magic now head to Indiana staring at the possibility of their second consecutive first-round postseason exit as they continue their tumble since Dwight Howard’s season-ending back surgery late in the regular-season. Including the regular-season, Orlando is 5-11 without the all-star center.
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