Pacers and Thunder come through after gruelling opening round match-ups.
There was significant tension on Saturday night with three Game 7s deciding the opening round playoff series for some NBA championship favourites.
After what has undoubtedly been a long week for the Los Angeles Clippers, they remained focus on the task in hand and overcame the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 at the Staples Center.
Controversy off the court as well as issues on it in containing the likes of Stephen Curry have resulted in a nervous wait to secure a series win, but with Chris Paul’s 22 points and 14 assists, Doc Rivers finally saw his men cross the finish line first.
Blake Griffin added 24 points while Jamal Crawford had 22 points for the third-seeded Clippers, and having now won and relieved the pressure, it remains to be seen just how far this team can go.
As for the Warriors, it is a disappointing early end to what has been another thrilling season, with Stephen Curry scoring 33 points and adding nine assists on his final performance of the campaign.
While there are doubts over Mark Jackson’s future, there is no doubting his achievements over the past two years as the Warriors have become a contender, but unfortunately this time round they didn’t quite have enough.
Staying in the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder will face the Clippers in the semi-finals after putting away the Memphis Grizzlies.
Despite missing Zach Randolph through suspension and point guard Mike Conley struggling with a hamstring strain, the Grizzlies came out firing in the opening half to raise nerves in OKC.
However, a triple double from Russell Westbrook with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 16 assists as well as 33 points from Kevin Durant saw the Thunder dominate through the second and third quarters to seal the win.
Durant conceded that he spent too much time worrying about the media’s opinion of him through this series and wasn’t playing off instinct when choosing shots, but having enjoyed Game 7, he hopes to be back at his best for what will undoubtedly be another tough series ahead.
Over in the East, the Indiana Pacers set up a semi-finals meeting with the Washington Wizards after seeing off the Atlanta Hawks.
Paul George had a playoff career-high 30 points to ensure they advance, and after struggling through this series they will hope to have rediscovered their edge moving forward.
The Hawks failed to have the same efficiency from distance which led to their issues, with Lance Stephenson and Roy Hibbert enjoying big games to help the top seeds through.
Atlanta Hawks 80-92 Indiana Pacers
Memphis Grizzlies 109-120 Oklahoma City Thunder
Golden State Warriors 121-126 Los Angeles Clippers