Thunder-Clippers: How OKC rode a rookie and an old pro into the Western Conference Finals

OKC 104, L.A. CLIPPERS 98 — Steven Adams’ breakout performance and a vintage Nick Collison effort allowed the Thunder to survive a slow start and a game-ending injury to Serge Ibaka.
by Anthony Slater Published: May 16, 2014

— With 19 minutes left, the Thunder’s five-point deficit suddenly looked a lot more daunting.

At the same time a struggling Russell Westbrook was called for his third foul, a limping Serge Ibaka headed for the locker room. Calf injury. He wouldn’t return.

Already needing any kind of spark to close the Clippers out, the Thunder now needed interior help from some unlikely places.

Nineteen minutes later, OKC had both, getting the closeout win 104-98 on Thursday night because it got the help, from both the emerging Steven Adams and the there-when-you-need-him Nick Collison.

In a breakout postseason run, Adams had his best performance. The 20-year-old rookie played a career-high 40 minutes. And in it, he had his first career playoff double-double, going for 10 important points and 11 crucial rebounds. The Thunder was 17 points better than the Clippers with him on the court. He played the final 21 minutes of the game.

And he got a large interior boost from Collison. Largely unused for most of the series, Collison became crucial once Ibaka went down.

The 10-year-pro didn’t play a second in the first half. But in the game’s final 19 minutes, he played 16 of them. His stat-line wasn’t eye-popping, but his impact was.

Collison came in and set important screens. He bullied the Clippers in the post. He had two crafty assists. And he may have hit one of the game’s most important shots.

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by Anthony Slater
Thunder Beat Writer
Anthony Slater started on the Thunder beat in the summer of 2013, joining after two years as NewsOK.com's lead sports blogger and web editor. A native Californian, Slater attended Sonoma State for two years before transferring to Oklahoma State in...
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