Oklahoma City plunged the final dagger into the Los Angeles Lakers with a 106-90 rout that sent them to their second consecutive NBA Western Conference finals.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook propelled the rising Thunder while leaving the storied Lakers franchise in a state of uncertainty after completing the 4-1 best-of-seven series win.
Durant and Westbrook combined for 53 points and the home team withstood 42 from Kobe Bryant to set up a West final against the top-seed San Antonio Spurs.
“SIt’s a step in the right direction. The Lakers are an unbelievable organization,” Durant told reporters. SIt feels good to advance, but we have to keep going.“
The Thunder had moved into position to eliminate Los Angeles with fourth-quarter comebacks in Games Two and Four but they dominated late in the clincher to punctuate their triumph.
Oklahoma City trailed 70-66 midway through the third but finished the quarter with a 17-7 run, then rattled off the first 10 points of the fourth, most with Bryant sitting on the bench.
Pau Gasol bounced back from a rough Game Four with 14 points and 16 rebounds, but it was far from enough for the visiting Lakers.
The younger and hungrier Thunder outmuscled Los Angeles in the rebounding battle and dominated in the fast break.
And while LA flopped to a second-round loss for the second year in a row, Oklahoma’s players paid tribute to Bryant, who many of them grew up idolizing.
"It means a lot,” said Thunder guard James Harden, who had 17 points. “Kobe’s a warrior out there, and it’s tough. But we stuck with it.”