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Thunder runs past Lakers in Game 5, advance to Western Conference final

Despite 42 points from Lakers star Kobe Bryant, Oklahoma City got big performances from both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant Monday night to reach the conference finals for the second year in a row.

By Jeff LatzkeAssociated Press / May 22, 2012

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook celebrates a basket against the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2nd half during Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference semi-finals in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, May 21.

Steve Sisney/REUTERS

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Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Ramon Sessions did the best he could to keep Russell Westbrook from making a high-flying dunk that would energize the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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No matter.

Even with his feet flat on the ground, Westbrook found a way to get the Thunder rolling past the Los Angeles Lakers and into the Western Conference finals for the second straight year.

After Sessions committed a foul to stop him on the fast break, Westbrook flipped the ball up toward the rim and got it to go in for what would become a three-point play. Westbrook took off toward the scorer's table, pumping his fist as the home crowd celebrated.

There was no turning back after that, and Oklahoma City pulled away for a 106-90 victory in Game 5 on Monday night to knock the Lakers out of the playoffs.

"That was an amazing play," coach Scott Brooks said. "Obviously, there's a lot of luck to that. You put yourself in that position to get a little lucky there.

"I thought from that point on, we really played with great energy on the offensive end, moved the ball and made shots."

Westbrook finished with 28 points, Kevin Durant added 25 points and 10 rebounds and the two All-Stars skipped their usual rest periods to power the Thunder ahead in the second half.

After Westbrook's pair of three-point plays fueled a 14-3 burst that put Oklahoma City ahead to stay late in the third quarter, Durant hit two 3-pointers as the Thunder scored the first 10 points of the fourth to push their lead to 93-77.

Los Angeles never got closer than 13 after that.

"That's a tough team, man. They weren't laying down," Westbrook said. "We got a little down on ourselves and we had to come together and be better teammates, and we did that."

Kobe Bryant scored 42 points for the Lakers and took the briefest of rest — less than 2 minutes — in the second half. It didn't even take that long for the game, and their season, to slip away.

Bryant was waiting to check in when Durant connected on his second 3-pointer, just 89 seconds into the fourth quarter. But by the time he got in, there was little he could do — despite the 13th 40-point game of his playoff career.

After getting eliminated by Los Angeles in 2010 and Dallas in 2011 before both of those teams went on to win it all, the Thunder knocked both out on their way to the West finals for the second straight year.

The only other time the franchise made consecutive conference finals was from 1978-80, including Seattle's only NBA title in 1979.

Once there, they'll face top-seeded San Antonio, which is riding an 18-game winning streak and is the only team other than the Lakers or Mavs to win the West in the past 13 years. The series starts Sunday night in San Antonio.

Los Angeles has followed back-to-back championships with two straight second-round exits.

"I'm not fading into the shadows," said Bryant, a five-time NBA champion with the Lakers. "I'm not going anywhere. We're not going anywhere."

Certainly, not this offseason.

Westbrook made sure of that when he went running to the scorer's table and pumped his fist in the air after his energizing three-point play.

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