Durant finished with a game-high 35 points, largely due to his 19-for-21 accuracy at the foul line, precision that made up for a 7-for-19 shooting night.
Russell Westbrook, meanwhile, added 23 points. Six of those came in overtime as Westbrook and Durant combined to provide all 15 of OKC’s points in the extra period.
Serge Ibaka added 15 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots before fouling out in 36 minutes, and Kevin Martin scored 20 points to lead a bench unit that played its best ball of the year in the nick of time against the league’s highest scoring bench.
“That was a hard-fought basketball game,” Brooks said. “I thought both teams really laid it on the line.”
After leading by as many as 10 in the opening period, the Thunder took a 26-22 lead into the second quarter thanks again to pinpoint passing and precise shooting. Oklahoma City had eight assists on 11 made field goals and shot 57.9 percent from the field.
Durant and Westbrook carried the load, combining for 13 points and seven assists in the quarter. Westbrook had five of his game-high tying nine assists in the period.
By halftime, the Thunder had extended its lead to 59-49. Martin poured in 13 points in the period, and Ibaka hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from straight away to supply the 10-point margin going into intermission.
Paul scored just one point in the first half — that lone point coming on a technical foul shot with 54.4 seconds remaining in the half. Late in the second quarter, Clippers forward Matt Barnes, who started in place of an injured Caron Butler, had three times as many shots as Paul, outshooting his point guard nine to three.
The Thunder took a 76-69 lead into the final period, but watched the Clippers’ reserves cut the lead to three behind a 6-2 spurt that pumped life into L.A within the first 1 1/2 minutes. From there, the Clippers slowly carved into the Thunder’s lead and stole momentum before ultimately tying the game at 102-all.
Oklahoma City had a shot to take the lead in the final 30 seconds of regulation, but Westbrook missed a leaner in the lane and Paul misfired on an off-balanced, foul-line jumper that was well defended by Westbrook just before the regulation buzzer.
“It’s a tough loss,” Paul said. “I think the most frustrating part is that we had the opportunity to win it.”
The Thunder wanted, and needed, it more.