LOS ANGELES: The Oklahoma City Thunder punched their ticket to the second playoff round, but the Los Angeles Clippers’ chances of following suit were dealt a big blow when Chris Paul broke his hand on Monday (Tuesday in Manila).
Paul broke his right hand in the Portland Trail Blazers’ 98-84 game four win as the Clippers guard became the second NBA star to suffer a serious injury in as many days.
Earlier Monday, the Golden State Warriors announced that reigning league MVP Stephen Curry would miss at least two weeks of the playoffs with a knee injury.
Paul left the game in the third quarter and did not return. X-rays showed a fractured third metacarpal.
As if the Paul injury wasn’t enough bad news, Blake Griffin also left Monday’s game with a sore knee.
Coach Doc Rivers said both players would be examined by team doctors on Tuesday.
“He (Paul) will get revaluated tomorrow but it doesn’t look good. Chris is taking this very hard. The reality is you don’t have Chris Paul,” Rivers said.
Paul left the arena with his arm in a sling and a heavy white bandage around his right wrist and hand.
Asked about Griffin, Rivers said, “it doesn’t look great for him either. We will see about that tomorrow.”
Al-Farouq Aminu scored 30 points as the Blazers evened the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.
Aminu made 11 of 20 shots from the field, including six of 10 from three-point range. The forward also had 10 rebounds and three blocked shots.
In Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 69 points as the Thunder advanced to the second round of the postseason with a 118-104 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
The Thunder took the series in five games and will next face the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference matchup. Game one will be Saturday at San Antonio.
Durant scored 33 points on 11-of-24 shooting to go along with seven rebounds. Steven Adams added 15 points and 10 boards in front of a crowd of 18,200 at Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Westbrook racked up 36 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists Monday, shooting 13-for-23 from the floor.
“I will tell you this, I’m happy he’s on my team,” Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said of Westbrook. “I wouldn’t trade him for anybody. There is no question that Russell Westbrook is one of the best players in this league.”
Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks’ attack with 24 points on eight-of-16 shooting. Dwight Powell came off the bench to score 16 points and grab nine rebounds.
Cuban fires up Thunder
Dallas owner Mark Cuban helped motivate the Thunder by saying before game five that he believed Westbrook was an all-star but not a superstar.
“He’s an idiot,” Durant said of Cuban. “He’s idiot. That’s what we’ve got to say about that. Next question.”
In Charlotte, Kemba Walker scored 11 straight points in a decisive fourth quarter run as the Charlotte Hornets leveled their Eastern Conference first round series with a 89-85 win over Miami.
Walker finished with 34 points as he rebounded from a four-of-19 shooting performance in a game three victory by hitting 13-of-28 from the field and six-of-seven from the free-throw line.
There were numerous momentum swings as Charlotte fell behind by 11 early but took control by outscoring the Heat 29-13 in the second quarter.
They led by as many as 18 in the third quarter before the Heat answered with a 17-1 spurt, and the game was destined to go to the final seconds from there.
The teams will head back to Miami tied 2-2 for game five on Wednesday, with a game six now set for Friday in Charlotte. The home team has won every game so far in the best-of-seven series.