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Thunder take 2-1 series lead on Clippers

Alan Draper profile picture
Sports Editor
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LOS ANGELES — After a stinging loss at home in Game 1, the Oklahoma City Thunder responded with back-to-back victories over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Forward Kevin Durant scored 36 points, grabbed eight rebounds and handed out six assists, and the Thunder defeated the Clippers 118-112 in Game 3 to take a 2-1 lead of this Western Conference semifinal series Friday night at Staples Center.

“That first loss definitely wasn’t our brand of basketball,” said Durant, who connected on 14 of 24 shots from the field and hit all seven of his free throws. “We knew that this team was a really good passing team. They play well together and they move the ball. In that first game, they picked us apart. Second game, we just wanted to be focused in all our sets, be physical with them on the defensive end and play as hard as we can.

“We knew it was going to be tough, especially coming into this environment, but I thought we did a good job of weathering the storm to start the game and sticking together.”

The allowed the Thunder to regain home court advantage. Game 4 is Sunday at Staples.

Point guard Russell Westbrook scored 23 points and dished out 13 assists for the Thunder. Westbrook also had eight rebounds, just missing his fourth triple-double of the playoffs.

“Throughout the game, you’re going to have some ups and downs, but great teams stick together,” said Westbrook, who made seven of his 14 attempts from the floor. “I thought we did a great job of just having each other’s backs.”

Forward Blake Griffin scored 34 points, pulled down eight rebounds and had three blocks for the Clippers, who lost for the first time in 36 games at Staples when they carried a lead into the fourth quarter. Point guard Chris Paul had 21 points and 16 assists for Los Angeles, while guard Jamal Crawford came off the bench to score 20 points.

“They got to the spots they wanted and hit shots,” Griffin said. “Early, I thought they got too many easy baskets and dunks. And we’ve got to do a better job on the boards.”

The Clippers lost despite committing only six turnovers — only two in the first half — compared to 14 for Oklahoma City. However, the Thunder outshot the Clippers, outrebounded them again and converted when they needed to most.

“Down the stretch, they made every big play,” Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers said. “Every shot they needed went in. We had shots, too, (but) they didn’t go in. I just thought we put way too much pressure on our offense because our defense was working.”

Oklahoma City held a 106-101 lead with four minutes remaining in the game after a put-back dunk by forward Serge Ibaka, who finished with 20 points and six rebounds.

Griffin cut the Thunder’s lead to 108-107 with a bucket inside with 2:23 remaining, but a 3-pointer by Westbrook and a jumper by Durant gave Oklahoma City a 113-107 advantage with 1:23 left. That was too much for Los Angeles to overcome.

The Clippers carried a 90-86 lead into the fourth quarter after Crawford converted three free throws after being fouled by Durant on a 44-foot attempt to end the third quarter.

A 3-pointer by Paul, who had 14 points and eight assists in the first half, with 4.5 seconds remaining gave Los Angeles a 63-61 lead at the break. Durant led all scorers in the first half with 21 points, while Griffin had 16.

Both teams shot well from the free throw line, with the Thunder converting 24 of 28 attempts (85.7 percent) compared to 21 of 24 (84 percent) for the Clippers. Oklahoma City outshot Los Angeles from the floor 55.7 percent to 45.2 percent.

The Thunder had a 44-33 edge on the boards, the third straight game they have outrebounded the Clippers.

NOTES: Clippers G Jamal Crawford received his NBA Sixth Man of the Year trophy before the game. … Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers said he spoke earlier Friday with new Clippers CEO Dick Parsons and was pleased with the conversation. … Shelly Sterling, wife of banned Clippers owner Donald, watched the game from a suite. … Oklahoma City outrebounded Los Angeles 99-67 in the first two games of the series. “Our guards have to rebound,” Rivers said. “Their guards destroyed us (rebounding).”… Thunder coach Scott Brooks said defending Clippers F Blake Griffin, who was limited to 15 points and six rebounds in Game 2, would be pivotal in Game 3. “We have to continue sending a bunch of bodies at him,” Brooks said.

Alan is an expert gambling writer who works as one of the chief editors for Basketball Insiders. He has been covering online gambling and sports betting for over 8 years, having written for the likes of Sportlens,, The Sports Daily, 90min, and His particular specialisms include US online casinos and gambling regulations, and soccer and basketball betting. Based in London, Alan holds an MA in English Literature and is a passionate supporter of Chelsea FC.

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