Thunder beat Clippers 109-97 to extend West lead

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By BETH HARRIS, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kevin Durant scored 32 points, Russell Westbrook added 26 and the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 109-97 on Tuesday night in a matchup of teams with the two best records in the NBA.

Serge Ibaka added 17 points before fouling out late while helping the Thunder improve to a league-leading 33-9 and expand their lead in the Western Conference standings to 1½ games over the Clippers, who were without All-Star Chris Paul and fell to 32-11.

Blake Griffin had 31 points and 11 rebounds, and Jamal Crawford added 14 points off the bench. Eric Bledsoe scored 12 points starting in place of Paul, who missed his fourth game because of a bruised right kneecap. He missed three road wins last week, then played the next two games but it was obvious Paul wasn't himself so he was held out Tuesday.

The Clippers had won four straight at home against the Thunder, and they led much of the first quarter before giving up the lead for good early in the second.

Los Angeles made a run to start the fourth, with Grant Hill and Crawford combining to score seven in a row and close to 82-75. That was as close as the Clippers came in losing their second straight.

Durant keyed a 3-point barrage over the next nearly 4 minutes, making three of them himself while Westbrook added one and Ibaka had another to extend the Thunder's lead to 99-82 — their largest of the game. Durant scored on a driving dunk to make it 101-85, then punctuated it by punching his right arm in the air.

The Clippers cut their deficit to 105-97. After Westbrook missed, Griffin raced down court and proceeded to throw the ball into the seats. He bent over with his head in his hands.

Having beaten the Clippers in overtime in November, the Thunder won the season series, with one game remaining on Jan. 22.

Oklahoma City pulled away to a 77-61 lead in the third on a 3-pointer by Thabo Sefolosha and a fast break dunk by Westbrook. The Clippers cut it to nine on seven straight points, including four by Crawford, before the Thunder scored the last five points to lead 82-68 going into the fourth.

The Thunder controlled the second, taking their first lead of the game on Kevin Martin's 3-pointer 45 seconds in. That launched a 13-2 run that gave the Thunder a nine-point lead, their largest to that point. Griffin scored the Clippers' final six points to help them close to 49-45 at halftime.

The Clippers led by eight before the Thunder closed the first quarter on an 8-0 run to tie the game at 22-all.

NOTES: It was Paul's bobblehead night. ... Clippers F Caron Butler swatted away a shot in the second quarter and the ball hit referee Derek Richardson in the head, knocking him backward to the court. He wasn't hurt. ... The Thunder improved to 2-1 on their season-high six-game trip. ... The Clippers agreed to a 10-year extension of their lease at Staples Center, where they are one of the arena's original tenants. The extension takes effect at the end of this season, and will keep them in the arena through June 2024.

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