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Clippers upset Warriors to keep champions waiting while Harden-led Rockets power on

Lou Williams inspired from the bench for the Los Angeles Clippers to keep the series alive.

LOU WILLIAMS EXPLODED off the bench for 33 points as the Los Angeles Clippers upset the top-seeded Golden State Warriors 129-121 to keep their NBA playoff series alive on Wednesday.

NBA: Playoffs-Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors Lou Williams was superb from the bench. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Williams finished with four rebounds and 10 assists on a night when the Clippers’ strength in depth thwarted a 45-point display from Kevin Durant to frustrate the Warriors hopes of wrapping up a series victory.

Williams made 12 of 19 attempts from the field while Montrezl Harrell delivered a huge performance off the bench as well, shooting 11-of-14 to finish with 24 points.

Point guard Patrick Beverley had 14 rebounds as the Clippers pulled the series back to 3-2 before game six in Los Angeles on Friday.

The Warriors had earlier threatened to cut loose in a high-scoring first quarter, piling on 41 points. 

But Clippers were able to exploit an uneven Warriors defensive display to remain within striking distance, restricting the reigning NBA champions to a four-point lead heading into the second quarter. 

The visitors outscored the Warriors 34-22 to take a 71-63 half-time lead and from that point Golden State were chasing the game.

Source: NBA/YouTube

The Clippers opened up a 15-point lead early in the third quarter and they kept the Warriors at arms length until Durant inspired a late run in the fourth.

A spectacular driving dunk by Durant edged Golden State 118-117 ahead with 2:40 remaining in the fourth as the momentum seemed to have shifted to the Warriors.

But Williams drained a three-pointer and forced a foul for a four-point play and the Clippers were suddenly back in front at 121-118.

Two more jumpers from Williams stretched the lead to 125-118 with just over a minute left before Danilo Gallinari’s running layup put the Clippers nine points clear.

Elsewhere, James Harden scored 26 points as the Houston Rockets booked their place in the NBA playoff Western Conference semi-finals on Wednesday with a 100-93 victory over the Utah Jazz.

Harden, the 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player, led the scoring as the Rockets overcame an improved Utah defensive effort to clinch a 4-1 series victory at Houston’s Toyota Center.

The win means Houston face a potential blockbuster meeting with the Golden State Warriors in the next round. The Warriors lead their first round series against the Los Angeles Clippers 3-1.

The Rockets had cruised to blowout victories in the opening two games of the series, winning by margins of 32 points and 20 points against an overwhelmed Jazz defense.

However, with Utah fighting to stay in the series on Wednesday there was rarely much daylight between the two sides, with the first quarter ending level at 20-20.

Houston pulled ahead to lead 46-40 at half-time and had opened up a 75-67 lead heading into the final quarter.

Source: NBA/YouTube

Utah managed to stay in touch, though, and pulled to within four points at 86-90 with just under 4min 30sec remaining.

But Utah’s Ricky Rubio missed a golden chance to put the Jazz ahead, squandering a wide open three-pointer from the corner to leave Houston 94-93 ahead.

The momentum shifted after that error, PJ Tucker adding two free throws to make it 96-93. Harden then made a superb steal and drew a foul to earn two free throws that put the Rockets up by five with 38 seconds remaining.

Chris Paul added two late free throws to make the game safe. Paul finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

Royce O’Neale led the Utah scoring, finishing with 18 off the bench.

– © AFP 2019

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