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Durant leads Thunder to victory over 76ers

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PHILADELPHIA — NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant received an unwanted night off Friday.

On Saturday, Oklahoma City’s star forward went right back to work, scoring 32 points in the Thunder’s 103-91 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, and adding 14 rebounds and 10 assists for his second triple-double of the season, and the fifth of his career.

Durant, who missed Friday night’s victory in Boston with a sprained right shoulder, is just the sixth NBA player since 1990 to fashion a 30-point-plus streak of 10 games or more. He shot 12-for-17 from the floor, as the Western Conference-leading Thunder (35-10) won its seventh straight.

“I felt like I was out for so long, even though it was one game,” he said. “I hate sitting out, but it was best for me and my shoulder.”

He said the shoulder was “a little stiff” to start the game, but was not a serious hindrance. He did say, however, that he did not want to take too many outside shots. He was 1-for-4 from 3-point range.

“My teammates kept feeding me and putting me in some positions to be successful,” he said.

Which is nothing new, as far as Thunder coach Scott Brooks is concerned.

“He has bounce in his step just about all the time,” Brooks said, “and that’s the beauty of our team and Kevin Durant. He loves the game. He’s always going to find enough energy to put us in a position to win a game. I thought tonight, (his) all-around game was fantastic. Having a triple-double after he came with a sore shoulder is remarkable on his part.”

Sixers coach Brett Brown actually thought his team did “a pretty good job” on Durant, to no avail.

“Everybody’s scared because he’s Kevin Durant and he scores in such a variety of ways,” Brown said. “He is the NBA’s hottest player. He’s always been an incredibly difficult guard. … You blink and he’s got a triple-double.”

The Thunder, which also received a 25-point, 11-rebound, five-block performance from forward Serge Ibaka, has now had three winning streaks of at least seven games this season.

Oklahoma City, which played its 17th straight game without guard Russell Westbrook (knee surgery), has also beaten Philadelphia nine straight times, and has won 12 straight road games against Eastern Conference opponents. Overall, the Thunder is 13-2 against the East this season.

“You’re going to have to do a lot of things right to beat that team, with or without Russell Westbrook, especially with the stage of our program,” Brown said. “They’re a really good example for us, given where they have come from.”

Guard/forward James Anderson had 19 points to lead the Sixers (14-30), who lost for the fifth time in six games. They have also dropped nine of their last 11 at home.

Guard/forward Evan Turner and center Spencer Hawes added 15 and 14 points, respectively, and forward Thaddeus Young contributed 13, along with 10 rebounds and eight steals.

Oklahoma City built a 13-point lead early in the third quarter, only to see Philadelphia reel off nine straight points, the first seven of those by Hawes, to cut the gap to 69-65.

But the Thunder scored 10 of the next 14 points, the last two of those when Durant scooped up a loose ball and went the length of the court for a dunk to reach the 30-point plateau. That left OKC with a 79-69 advantage. By quarter’s end, they were up by 12 at 83-71.

The Sixers drew no closer than eight in the fourth quarter. The only drama at that point was whether Durant would pick up his 10th assist to complete the triple-double. It came when he fed center/forward Nick Collison for a jumper from the right wing with 4:54 left.

Ibaka made his first five shots as the Thunder moved to a 19-13 lead early in the game, but Turner crammed six points into the final 1:43 of the quarter, enabling the Sixers to forge a 26-26 tie.

Then Durant went to work in the second period. There was a fadeaway jumper from the left baseline, a dunk and later a layup, another slam and a 3-pointer from the top of the circle, over guard Michael Carter-Williams. Just like that, Oklahoma City had forged a 43-34 lead.

Durant had 11 points in the quarter and 18 in the half, which ended with the Thunder on top, 53-44. Ibaka shot 8-for-9 and scored 16 points, with seven rebounds and five blocks. Durant also grabbed seven boards in the half.

Durant and guard Thabo Sefolosha then scored six points each in the opening minutes of the third quarter — Sefolosha on a pair of 3-pointers — as OKC moved to a 67-54 advantage.

NOTES: Thunder coach Scott Brooks said before tipoff that the overall excellence of G-F Kevin Durant has been overlooked during his hot streak. “I’m proud that he’s done it on the defensive end, and also in the passing department,” Brooks said. “He can score, like a lot of guys in this league can score, but what makes him a special player is that he wants his teammates to score and he wants to stop the other team from scoring.” … Brooks is also impressed by the development of Sixers G Michael Carter-Williams. “He’s very good, very crafty,” Brooks said. “It seems like he’s been in the league for five or six years. He plays with poise out there. He’s very active defensively. He’s active with long arms. He gets in the passing lanes. And he’s a better shooter than I thought.” … Sixers G Tony Wroten returned after missing the three previous games with a sprained right ankle. He scored nine points in 16:32.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair

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If James Harden needed any extra motivation against the Los Angeles Clippers, he found it in the first half.

Harden scored 34 points, and the Rockets held on for a 100-98 victory over the Clippers in a sometimes testy affair on Sunday at Staples Center.

Point guard Chris Paul, who finished with 23 points, missed a contested shot at the buzzer that would have forced overtime.

“It was very important for us just to go out there and play well,” said Harden, who hit seven of 16 shots from the floor, three of five from 3-point range and 17 of 18 free throws. “The last two games we kind of struggled a little bit, but we got our pop back a little bit today, and it was a good win for us.”

Harden provided much of that pop, particularly in the second quarter after Clippers forward Matt Barnes was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul after pushing Harden to the court at 6:02. Harden scored 15 of his 18 points in the period after that, leading the Rockets to a 58-50 halftime lead.

Did the flagrant foul add more fuel for the Rockets’ All-Star guard and MVP candidate?

“Yeah. Things like that are fun,” said Harden, who had 24 points in the first half. “We have fun, we got boosted off of that.”

The win ended a two-game skid for the Rockets (44-22). Houston forward Trevor Ariza scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while forward Terrence Jones added 16 points and 12 boards.

“This was a win that we needed, especially on the road,” Ariza said. “Going into the home stretch, these are the types of games we have to win.”

Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin returned after missing 15 games due to surgery on his right elbow. Griffin had 11 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but committed five turnovers in 41 minutes.

“I didn’t think I played well,” said Griffin, who managed 4-of-10 shooting. “I was out of rhythm. Way too many turnovers, obviously.”

Barnes scored 19 points and guard J.J. Redick had 15 for the Clippers (42-24), who fell into a tie for the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference standings with the Dallas Mavericks.

Paul lamented a host of turnovers in the defeat, including a critical one involving center DeAndre Jordan.

“I had some bad turnovers,” said Paul, who committed three of the Clippers’ 20 miscues compared to 13 for the Rockets. “On one, I drove it off DeAndre’s foot, the other one I lost towards the end of the half. We have to take better care of the ball. We still had an opportunity to win, but we just didn’t do it.”

The Clippers came back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit. Paul scored seven straight points, capping it with a 3-point basket to tie the score at 96 with 3:05 left in the game. Houston got a 3-pointer by Jones, but Barnes countered with a basket to keep Los Angeles within 99-98 with 1:35 left. Los Angeles, though, never scored again.

Griffin got a steal as Ariza attempted a pass to Harden, but Ariza drew a charging foul as Griffin bolted to the bucket with 12 seconds remaining. Griffin remained unhappy about the call after the game.

“If I speak on that, I’ll get fined,” Griffin said.

Harden hit one of two foul shots with 8.9 seconds left, capping the scoring before Paul failed to connect on a jumper in the lane with Ariza defending.

The Rockets outscored Los Angeles 36-20 in the second quarter despite making just 38.5 percent of their shots compared to 44.4 percent for the Clippers. Overall, the Clippers hit 43.9 percent to 37.2 percent for the Rockets. They also held an edge in 3-point shooting, converting 12 of 26 attempts to seven of 30 for Houston. The Rockets, though were 29 of 36 from the foul line to 14 of 24 for Los Angeles.

Jordan finished with 20 rebounds and four blocks.

NOTES: F Blake Griffin’s return benefits PG Chris Paul as much as any Clipper. “Teams have been able to trap (Paul) far more than they can when Blake is on the floor because of (Griffin’s) ability to pass,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I’m sure CP is the happiest of all to have him back.” … Rivers isn’t sure if injured G Jamal Crawford would return before the playoffs. Crawford has missed six games with a right calf contusion. … Rockets C Dwight Howard sat out his 18th game with a right knee edema. “He’s doing everything he can, he’s trying to get better, but until you’re on the floor, it’s impossible to say,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said regarding Howard’s return. … Both clubs resume play Tuesday. Houston hosts the Orlando Magic, while Los Angeles plays the Charlotte Hornets at Staples Center.

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Spurs’ Ginobili sprains ankle

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SAN ANTONIO — Guard Manu Ginobili was helped off the floor late in the third quarter of the San Antonio Spurs’ game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday due to a sprained right ankle.

Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points. He was immediately was led to the locker room, and he did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court. He did not return to the game.

In 19 minutes during the Spurs’ 123-97 win over the Timberwolves, Ginobili scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday and leading him to play limited minutes against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.

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NBA notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return

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Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, out the last 15 games with an elbow injury, was cleared to return Sunday against the Houston Rockets.

Griffin had surgery five weeks ago to remove a staph infection in his right elbow.

“He said, ‘I’m ready,'” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before Sunday’s game. “Yesterday the trainers called me and said, ‘If he can go, he can go. He’s been cleared.'”

Rivers said timing likely will be an adjustment for Griffin.

“Timing is timing,” Rivers said. “You lose it when you don’t play in an NBA game. Sometimes you come back and you play great the first game and then you lose your timing. Sometimes it doesn’t. As far as the way we play, it won’t be hard for him at all.”

In 51 games this season, Griffin is averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists.

–Spurs guard Manu Ginobili had to be helped off the floor late in the third quarter against Minnesota on Sunday. Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points.

He was helped off the floor and immediately was led to the locker room. He did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court.

Up to that point, Ginobili had scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against Toronto and play limited minutes against Cleveland on March 12.

–Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr sent emails to three fans who were disappointed that he rested several prominent players, including All-Star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, in Friday’s loss to the Nuggets in Denver.

“There’s two really good sides to the story,” Kerr said, according to the Associated Press report. “Nobody’s wrong here. … I can’t argue with them.”

Kerr received an email from a family that drove from South Dakota to Denver to see Curry, Thompson and the entertaining Warriors play. But Curry, Thompson, center Andrew Bogut and reserve guard Andre Iguodala did not play so they could be rested, and the Warriors lost 114-103.

“I heard from some fans. I received a few emails, stories about driving in from a long distance off and spending a lot of money on tickets,” Kerr said. “I have great sympathy for those people. I really do. It’s a tricky one. It’s something that I think Adam Silver is trying to address through the scheduling shuffling that he’s talking about.

–The Dallas Mavericks recalled center/forward Dwight Powell from the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League on Sunday.

The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Powell played in one game during his most recent assignment to the D-League and finished with 28 points, five rebounds and two assists to lead the Legends in a 115-89 win over the Austin Spurs on Saturday night.

Powell has appeared in 19 games for the Mavericks this season, averaging 3.5 points and 2.2 rebounds in 10.0 minutes per game.

–The Atlanta Hawks signed forward Austin Daye to a 10-day contract Sunday.

Daye appeared in 26 games (four starts) earlier this season with the San Antonio Spurs, averaging 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.3 minutes.

In 10 games this season with the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League, Daye has averaged 16.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 blocks in 28.5 minutes.

–The Miami Heat recalled guard Zoran Dragic from the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Development League on Sunday.

Zoran appeared in four games (one start) and averaged 16.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.50 steals, helping the Skyforce to a 3-1 record over that span.

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