LOS ANGELES -- A season with broken bones, separated shoulders, swollen ankles, bad backs and sore hamstrings was the cost to get here.
A postseason full of unimaginable drama, an owner recorded saying racist things, his wife digging in her heels for a legal fight and a franchise with an uncertain future left a team caught right in the middle.
They hoped it would all be worth it, with all the clutter and the pain serving as mile markers on a memorable journey.
Instead, it all ended Thursday night, with the Clippers missing shot after shot as the Thunder advanced to the Western Conference Finals, closing out the Clippers, 104-98, in Game 6 at Staples Center.
The Clippers have never advanced past the conference semifinals.
Shots the Clippers made on their way to being the league's best offense during the regular season rattled out as their season slipped away in the final 12 minutes, and the frustration became unbearable.
Down seven with four minutes left, consecutive offensive fouls negated two Clipper baskets, with two fans throwing drinks onto the court at official Ed Malloy.
On the court, Blake Griffin screamed at officials after fouling out with 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes hung their heads after missed shots on offense and made ones by the opposition.
Chris Paul, who looked shell-shocked after a nightmare final minute in the Game 5 loss on Tuesday, tried desperately to extend the season, but even 14 fourth-quarter points weren't enough.
Concerns over how the Clippers would respond to the heartbreaking collapse in Game 5 were quickly answered, as the team got out to a hot start.
Ball movement, something that disappeared as the Clippers coughed up a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter Tuesday, got everyone involved, with five Clippers scoring at least five points in the first.
Even more impressively, the team assisted on all 11 field goals in the quarter.
But it wasn't just offense.
The Clippers defense, which stifled the Thunder for the bulk of Game 5, held Oklahoma City to 32 percent shooting early, forcing Durant and Westbrook to go 1-for-11.
But Durant is too good to keep quiet for long.
After the Clippers built a 16-point lead in the second, Durant got hot, hitting three straight from long range.
Behind Durant's flurry and much tighter defense, the Thunder were able to cut the Clippers' lead to eight by halftime.
Oklahoma City, while unable to fully get going offensively, kept smothering the Clippers, holding them to 42 combined points in the second and third quarters after allowing 30 in the first.
The Clippers didn't help themselves against the Thunder defense, though. The team missed free throws, Griffin clanked a dunk off the rim and Darren Collison missed an uncontested layup after sliding through traffic.
While they struggled, the Thunder chipped away, methodically climbing back into the game.
With the Clippers leading by five late in the third quarter, Thunder reserve guard Reggie Jackson skied in transition for a one-handed dunk. After an empty trip for the Clippers, Nick Collison, playing only because of a calf injury to Serge Ibaka, splashed home a corner 3 to tie the game right before the start of the fourth.
Oklahoma City quickly took the lead, stretching it to as many as 11 in the final quarter thanks largely to 10 points from Russell Westbrook in the frame.
Thursday morning, Barnes reflected on the road he and his teammates had traveled.
"It's been a crazy season, a fun season," he said. "There were a lot of unfortunate events to start the playoffs, but it's building character and bringing us closer.
"It's going to be a great story at the end."
It will for someone, just not the Clippers.
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