The Oklahoma City Thunder punched their ticket to the 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 and 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’ve 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, now 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 awhile. We have to be able to win in San Antonio. They are a team that has been together for a while. I been watching them all playoffs and they got a lot of tricks.”
On Saturday, the Lakers were just seconds away from deadlocking the series 2-2 with Oklahoma City. Forty-eight hours later, they were booking tee times after the 4-1 series loss.
The Thunder stole Game 4 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, while 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 start of the second, but then we ended up turning the ball over and they fed off our turnovers,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said.
The Oklahoma City franchise earned just their second road playoff win over the Lakers in their past 15 tries. Their first road playoff win against the Lakers was in 1980 when the franchise was still located in Seattle.
In the playoffs, the rivalry dates back to 1978 when the franchise was known as the SuperSonics. The Sonics beat the Lakers in 1978 and 1979 when they reached the NBA finals both times. They had not beaten Los Angeles again until this year.