OKLAHOMA CITY – Guard Russell Westbrook had 40 points and 10 assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the San Antonio Spurs 105-92 on Tuesday night to tie the best-of-seven Western Conference finals at two games apiece.
It matched the second-highest playoff point total of Westbrook’s career, falling short of the 43 he scored in the 2012 NBA Finals. He also had five rebounds and five steals.
“I think I did all right. Coming out with a win is most important,” Westbrook said. “I just try to come out and give maximum effort. My teammates ask that of me and that’s what I try to do on both ends of the floor.”
Kevin Durant added 31 points on 11-for-22 shooting. It was his highest-scoring game of the series after the NBA’s leading scorer had a 22.7-point average in the first three games. Serge Ibaka added nine points and eight rebounds for the Thunder, which has turned around the series since the power forward returned from a leg injury that was expected to keep him out for the rest of the postseason.
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“We just play well with Serge,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We can do things with Serge in the lineup that we can’t do with other guys.”
Boris Diaw had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Tony Parker added 14 points for the Spurs, who blew a 2-0 lead against the Thunder in this round two years ago and are in danger of doing it again.
San Antonio will host Game 5 on Thursday.
“We’re just going to have to play better, bottom line,” Parker said. “We didn’t play well here. Now all we can control is Game 5.”
Oklahoma City dominated for the second consecutive game after getting blown out in the first two in San Antonio. The Thunder committed a mere seven turnovers.
The Spurs scored the first eight points of the game, but things went downhill from there for San Antonio. A steal and dunk by Westbrook gave the Thunder a 42-32 lead with just under five minutes left in the first half. Back-to-back three-pointers by ex-Sonic Durant pushed Oklahoma City’s lead to 50-36.
“I think we have to play harder,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “They’re playing more physically than we are and playing with more determination.”
Sterling issues response to league
LOS ANGELES – Donald Sterling responded formally to the league’s attempt to terminate his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers, saying it was illegal to oust him based on a “lover’s quarrel” that was “illegally recorded.”
Sterling’s response, obtained by the Los Angeles Times, included a cover letter that contended he had received offers “in excess of $2.5 billion” to purchase the franchise he has owned since 1981. The potential buyers weren’t identified.
Sterling said his inflammatory remarks about black people were made in a private conversation with V. Stiviano and became public when the TMZ website published them in April.
The response goes on to claim Sterling was “distraught” when he made the statements because Stiviano told him she planned to bring “four gorgeous black guys to the game” and that should be a mitigating factor.
“This was an argument between a jealous man and the woman he loved that should never have left the privacy of the living room,” the response said.
In the aftermath of the recording, the league banned Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million. NBA owners are scheduled to meet in New York on June 3 to vote on ending the ownership of Sterling and his wife, Shelly. They co-own the team through a family trust.
Sterling “is going to fight to the bloody end,” his attorney, Maxwell Blecher, told ESPN.
The response claims that it would cost Sterling $300 million to $500 million in capital-gains taxes if he is forced to sell now rather than pass the team to his heirs.
• Indiana Pacers forward Paul George was fined $25,000 by the league for his public criticism of the officiating in Monday’s 102-90 loss at Miami.
The Heat leads the East final series 3-1.