(Reuters) – Chris Paul missed just two shots in a stunning 32-point display as the Los Angeles Clippers blasted the Oklahoma City Thunder 122-105 on Monday to seize a Game One victory in their Western Conference semi-final series.
Paul made his first eight three-pointers, a career-best total, and finished 12-for-14 from the field with 10 assists as Los Angeles enjoyed a surprisingly dominant road win to open the best-of-seven series.
“It was just one of those nights. This will definitely go down in the history books for me,” Paul told reporters.
With the victory, the Clippers continued to distance themselves from the cloud of controversy that hovered above a first round series overshadowed by owner Donald Sterling’s racist comments that led to a life ban from the NBA.
The Clippers were expected to ease past Golden State but despite the unwanted distraction created by Sterling’s remarks, Los Angeles held on to edge the sixth-seeded Warriors in a hard-fought series that went the distance.
The Thunder also waded through a seven-game struggle of their own against Memphis but appeared ill-prepared for a free-scoring Los Angeles team, despite 29 points from Russell Westbrook and 25 from Kevin Durant.
Paul showed his hand early, pouring in five three-pointers in the first quarter alone to lead the road team to a 39-25 advantage at the break. The Clippers continued to build on their momentum as the Thunder appeared powerless to slow them down with Los Angeles leading by as much as 29 points late in the fourth quarter.
All Star Blake Griffin finished with 23 points and Jamal Crawford added 17 off the bench in the winning effort. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha, regarded as a defensive specialist, rejoined the starting lineup after being benched for the past two games but his presence had almost no effect on the Clippers’ offense.
“We have to be more physical with them, and make them feel us a little bit more,” Durant said.