LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mr. Unreliable was rock-solid and relentless yet again.
Kevin Durant’s reward is another trip to the Western Conference finals with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The league MVP made the most foolish headline in recent newspaper history look even worse Thursday night with a spectacular 39-point performance, propelling the Thunder into a matchup with the San Antonio Spurs for a spot in the NBA finals.
While Russell Westbrook struggled and Oklahoma City’s role players foundered, Durant carried his teammates through Game 6 against the Los Angeles Clippers. Durant accounted for nearly half of their points with buckets or assists as the Thunder finally finished off their mentally exhausted second-round opponents, 104-98.
Durant also had a season-high 16 rebounds, and he might have to do even more when the Thunder visit San Antonio for Game 1 on Monday night. He’s confident Oklahoma City is capable of getting past the West’s No. 1 seeds with teamwork sprouting from years of playoff runs.
“Experience has helped us out a lot, just being with each other for so long,” Durant said. “We’ve got a long ways to go. We definitely can get better. This is definitely a series that pushed us to the brink. We were in a tough spot. We stayed together and persevered.”
When the Thunder were down by 16 points and struggling to make any shot early in Game 6, they looked all but ready to fold up and head home for a series-deciding finale.
Instead, Westbrook overcame a slow start to finish with 19 points and 12 assists as the Thunder reached the conference finals for the third time in four years, closing out Los Angeles with two straight wins.
Two days after the Thunder erased a late 13-point deficit to win Game 5, the Thunder rallied from that early deficit and maintained their lead throughout the fourth quarter, shaking off any memories of their Game 4 collapse on the same Staples Center court.
“I thought tonight’s game was something that we’ve done all year,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We’ve all stuck together and found ways to win.”
Durant hit five 3-pointers and Reggie Jackson added 14 points for Oklahoma City, which will face the Spurs in a rematch of the West’s last two champions. The Thunder eliminated San Antonio in six games in 2012.