“I’m one of those guys that no matter what happens my team needs me to be aggressive late in the games,” Durant said. “They need me to shoot the ball and make the right play. So they trust me to take those shots. I’m going to keep shooting no matter what. I could be 0-for-100 and it’s the end of the game but I’m going to let it fly and not going to care if I miss. That’s a part of my growth. I’ve missed so many of those shots late in games, but I’ve learned from them. And when the opportunity’s there I just try to take advantage of it. And tonight I was able to hit one.”
A 3-pointer by Clippers guard Darren Collison again trimmed the deficit to two, but Durant was fouled on a drive and made both foul shots to bump the lead back to four. Paul split a pair of foul shots at the other end, providing the Thunder with a chance to slam the door inside the final 30 seconds.
Ibaka missed a baseline jumper, but Westbrook soared in to secure the offensive rebound. He was fouled and made one of two at the line to put the Thunder ahead, 105-101 with 15.2 seconds remaining.
“I try to do whatever it is to help us win,” Westbrook said. “I seen all night they were just kind of watching, and I was just waiting on my time to go to the glass because they’re an aggressive team in transition. So I wasn’t trying to go to the glass today. They lead the league in offense. I just tried to find the right time to do it.”
Westbrook scored a team-high 30 points with 11 rebounds and six assists. He made 12 of 24 shots in 33 minutes and helped hold Paul in check for much of the night.
Paul’s biggest flurry came in the fourth quarter, when he scored nine points and hit back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the period to ignite the Clippers’ come back. He finished with 25 points on 8-for-17 shooting with five rebounds and eight assists.
Durant scored 27 points on 26 shots, and Ibaka added 15 points, seven rebounds, four blocked shots and a critical late contest on J.J. Redick’s 3-point try that could have again brought the Clippers within one inside the final 11 seconds. Ibaka’s presence forced Redick into coming up well short on his attempt.
“We just simply played hard,” Durant said. “It’s no schemes. It’s no techniques. We just made the championship type of play, which is rebounding the basketball, Serge (Ibaka) contesting a shot. That’s what wins you games. And where we’re trying to go, that’s what you have to do to win the big games.”
After a hard-nosed road win late Wednesday night, the Thunder’s road looks like it’ll be a little bit less bumpy.