Griffin got off to a great start, making up for his subpar Game 2 by attacking the rim with ferocity and drawing fouls at a ridiculous rate. His early aggression resulted in four Thunder players picking up fouls in the opening minutes, including two on Ibaka less than 31/2 minutes into the game. It allowed Griffin to get to the free throw line nine times in the first quarter. He made eight of them for his 14 first-quarter points.
Thanks to 17 first-quarter points from Durant, the Thunder was able to keep pace and trail by only four heading into the second quarter.
That’s when the Thunder’s bench, for the first time this series, showed a pulse.
Jackson carved up the Clippers defense with penetration and crafty finishes at the rim, and Steven Adams provided pivotal hustle plays, pulling down seven rebounds in his first seven minutes. Their efforts helped the Thunder outscore the Clippers, 32-30, in the second quarter and go into the half trailing, 63-61.
After a tightly contested third period, the Clippers entered the final frame ahead, 90-86. But the Thunder seized control with timely offense and impressive defense.
Caron Butler provided some monumental baskets in the fourth quarter, when he banged in all three of his 3-pointers. The final one came off a swing pass from Durant and put the Thunder ahead, 102-100, with 5:52 left to play.
Butler and Jackson entered Game 3 having scored a combined 14 points on 5-for-25 shooting. But they busted out in a big way Friday, contributing a combined 28 points on 9-for-18 shooting.
The Clippers made a small charge inside the final four minutes and appeared ready to take control of the game after a 6-2 spurt that pulled them within 108-107 with 2:33 remaining. But Westbrook sank a straight-away 3-pointer, and after Paul missed a jumper at the other end Durant delivered an MVP-caliber shot when he splashed in a turnaround jumper from the right wing with Paul draped all over him. It put the Thunder up, 113-107, with 1:23 showing on the game clock.
Two more empty Clippers possessions led to Jackson earning and making two free throws after an aggressive drive with the shot clock winding down. He bumped the Thunder’s lead to 115-107 and provided the final margin with another pair of foul shots with 3.8 seconds remaining.