Home turf key to booking spot in second round of NBA play-offs
Clippers, Pacers and Thunder advance to next stage after overpowering their respective rivals in game seven deciders
The Los Angeles Clippers, Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City all capitalised on home-court advantage to win their respective game sevens, progressing to the second round of the NBA play-offs.
The Thunder overpowered the Memphis Grizzlies 120-109 to line up a second-round play-off series clash with the Clippers.
Paul George scored 30 points and the top-seeded Indiana Pacers, pushed to the brink of elimination, beat Atlanta 92-80.
Russell Westbrook notched his second triple-double of the series with 27 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds, and Kevin Durant scored a game-high 33 points for the Thunder.
The Clippers advanced with a 126-121 game-seven triumph over the Golden State Warriors in Los Angeles.
Westbrook joined Rajon Rondo as the only players in NBA history to record triple-doubles in two game sevens. His first also came against Memphis in 2011.
The Grizzlies, missing the suspended Zach Randolph and with Mike Conley nursing a sore hamstring, gave it all they had, taking a 36-27 lead after the first quarter and leading by as many as 11 in the second period before the Thunder inexorably asserted themselves.
Durant, expected to be named the NBA Most Valuable Player this week, was a perfect five-for-five from three-point range and pulled down eight rebounds in the victory.
"I was finally able to get out of my own way tonight," said Durant, who admitted he had been stung by critical press after struggling offensively earlier in the series. "I was thinking too much; worried about what you guys [the media] were saying about me."
The Grizzlies had led the series 3-2, but missed their chance to advance when they dropped game six in Memphis. Randolph, who led the Grizzlies in scoring with 18.9 points per game in the series, was suspended for game seven after punching Thunder rookie Steven Adams late in Thursday's loss.
The Thunder will host game one of the second-round series against the Clippers Tuesday morning (Hong Kong time).
The Clippers kept their post-season push going despite the controversy surrounding owner Donald Sterling.
Sterling was banned for life from NBA activities and fined US$2.5 million by league commissioner Adam Silver after racially charged remarks he made in a private conversation became public on April 25.
The league is also taking steps to force him to sell the club.
"I just thought this team really needed the game," said Clippers coach Glenn "Doc" Rivers. "I just thought with all this stuff, this team just needed this win.
"Our guys fought the adversity, they went through it. It drained them and they found enough energy to find a way to win the game."
Blake Griffin scored 24 points and DeAndre Jordan added 15 with 18 rebounds, the pair combining on a string of stirring plays down the stretch to secure the close-run victory.
Chris Paul scored 22 points and 14 assists for the Clippers, who got 22 from Jamal Crawford and 20 from J.J. Redick.
The Pacers, who had the best record in the Eastern Conference to claim a home-court edge all the way into the NBA finals, had to win the last two games of their best-of-seven series to advance 4-3 over the only team in the playoffs with a losing regular-season record.
Indiana will face the Washington Wizards in the second round.
"This was a long series," George said. "We're happy to get over this hump and get ready for the next task, which is preparing for the Wizards.
"We're ready for those guys. This is going to be just as tough a matchup. We have to put this one to rest. We're happy to continue on our journey."