NEW YORK — Visiting Brooklyn as the hottest team in the NBA, with arguably the hottest scorer in the league in Kevin Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder disposed of the Brooklyn Nets 120-95 on Friday night for its 10th consecutive victory.
“Our guys believe in what we do and we do it together,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “That’s what the great thing is about our group. They’re very competitive. We’ve been together for a while so we understand what we do offensively and defensively and it works.”
Durant had his streak of 12 straight 30-point games snapped, scoring 26 on 10 of 12 shooting and adding seven assists. Durant sat out the entire fourth quarter as the Thunder were up by 30 points, 89-59, after three. In the past 30 years, only Kobe Bryant (16) and Tracy McGrady (14) recorded more consecutive 30-point games.
“Man, I’m glad that’s over with,” Durant said. “I’d much rather take the win, that’s my type of game. Just playing how the game is played.”
“He’s a team player. He’s a playmaker. If he cared about the streak he should’ve made those two shots. He can’t blame that on me,” Brooks said jokingly. “It doesn’t even matter to him. I’ve been around him for seven years and it’s not important to him. He’s a team guy.”
Forward Serge Ibaka showed his versatility, scoring from anywhere on the floor with 25 points on 12-of-12 shooting. Ibaka and Durant shot a combined 22 of 24 from the field.
“It was a good team win,” Brooks said. “I thought Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka were really good. … It’s been proven but we just have to keep building on it.”
Guard Reggie Jackson, who has filled in seamlessly for Russell Westbrook since going out at the end of December to have knee surgery, added 14 points and seven assists.
“We just wanted to come in here and get better from when we played them last time and get the W,” Durant said. “Everybody played great tonight.”
The Nets’ offense could not generate much against the league’s seventh-best defense, shooting 43 percent while being out-rebounded 41-17.
“I think the defense at the start of the game was really good,” Brooks said. “We played aggressive. We didn’t give Brooklyn a lot of open looks and we were getting our hands on the basketball.”
Guard Shaun Livingston led Brooklyn with 16 points as he continued to start for Deron Williams, who has chosen to start the last six games on the bench. Williams had 14 points with four turnovers to only one assists.
“We hung our heads a little bit,” Williams said. “That’s kind of the tendency we had in the beginning of the season when we weren’t sure.”
Durant started his assault on the score sheet early, dropping 22 points in the first half as the Thunder shot 61 percent from the field, building a 28-point halftime lead.
“We kept knocking down shots and that was giving us confidence early on,” Durant said. “That’s how you win games. Just playing the right way.”
After the Thunder’s second unit expanded its lead to 17 in the first 4 1/2 minutes of the second quarter, Durant returned to the game only to lead an 11-0 run that put Oklahoma City up by 24. The lead continued to balloon, swelling to as much as 32.
Even the opposition managed to take a step back and appreciate Durant’s play.
“Crazy. What he’s doing right now is just crazy,” Williams said of Durant. “The end of the year it’s going to be hard to argue about the MVP of this league with what he’s doing right now, carrying the team without Westbrook. He’s one of the best ones I’ve ever seen.”
A 15-0 first-quarter run, extending into the beginning of the second quarter, gave the Thunder an early 14-point cushion behind a three-headed scoring attack of Durant, Ibaka and center Kendrick Perkins. Durant either scored or assisted in 19 of Oklahoma City’s first 30 points.
Livingston did much of the offensive work for Brooklyn, scoring 10 of the Nets’ 16 first-quarter points.
“I honestly thought the effort was there,” Nets guard Joe Johnson said. “They kind of had us all over the place. We just couldn’t get enough stops and get out in transition so we’re taking the ball out and walking up the court, and it’s tough to win like that.”
Johnson, fresh off his selection to the Eastern Conference All-Star team, had just nine points.
NOTES: The Nets and Thunder are two of the hottest teams in the NBA. Brooklyn had won 10 of its last 12 games and Oklahoma City has now won 10 straight. … Thunder F Kevin Durant had scored 30 or more points in his previous 12 games, including 54- and two 48-point outings. He averaged 38 ppg during that span. He leads the NBA at 31.1 ppg this season. … The Thunder have been without star G Russell Westbrook since Dec. 27. Backup Reggie Jackson stepped in and was averaging 14.6 points per game since Westbrook had knee surgery. … The Nets have already defeated the Thunder once this month, using a Joe Johnson buzzer-beater in a 95-93 victory on Jan. 2. … The Nets had their five-game winning streak snapped on Monday night with a 104-103 loss to the Toronto Raptors. Both of Brooklyn’s losses this month came against Toronto.
Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair
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.
Spurs’ Ginobili sprains ankle
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.
NBA notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return
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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