The Thunder beat the Lakers 104-98 in Game 5 of the NBA Finals in Western Conference play on Wednesday night in Los Angeles, putting the Lakers, who had a 3-1 lead, into an historic hole.
Russell Westbrook and Paul George scored 34 points each, and Russell Westbrook recorded his league-leading fourth triple-double of the postseason, but even these two Oklahoma City veterans couldn’t come through at the end.
After the Lakers built a 20-point fourth-quarter lead on Tuesday night, Westbrook and George were able to stave off the Clippers, knocking down wide-open three-pointers and continuing to put bodies in the faces of their defenders in a furious battle.
With the Lakers relying heavily on their outside shooters, Westbrook and George decided to attack the hoop. Westbrook made several tough shots from outside, including a three-pointer that brought the crowd at Staples Center to its feet.
But then the Thunder collapsed. LeBron James had a hard time staying on his feet and Paul George — who had given the Thunder a 3-1 lead by scoring 32 points against the Clippers — missed all four of his shots and two free throws from the free-throw line in the final minutes of the game.
James, who finished with 20 points, was not entirely without fault. He got his shot blocked, and by the time his teammates had got open, it was too late.
Kevin Durant, who also finished with 20 points, left the game and did not return because of a sprained ankle.
The Thunder took control of the game early, outscoring the Lakers, 29-21, in the second quarter. It was the closest the Lakers would get during the third quarter. The Thunder increased their lead to 14 points in the fourth quarter, and Westbrook even added a technical foul foul after drawing a couple of offensive fouls on Laker defenders.
The game marked the end of the Lakers’ disappointing season. Since moving to Los Angeles, they’ve won only 14 of 79 regular-season games and won’t make the playoffs.
Wednesday night also marked the final game of Clarkson’s NBA career.
The Thunder now has a chance to win the title. They visit the Houston Rockets in Game 6 on Friday, looking to cap off one of the best regular seasons in the franchise’s 51-year history.