Clippers-Thunder Preview

The Associated PressNovember 21, 2012

A big reason for the Los Angeles Clippers' strong start has been their ability to beat some of the NBA's other top teams.

The visiting Clippers will need to pass another major test when they try to win seven in a row for the first time in 21 years Wednesday night against the surging Oklahoma City Thunder.

Los Angeles (8-2) opened the season with victories over Western Conference co-leader Memphis and the rival Lakers. After dropping consecutive home games to Golden State and Cleveland, the Clippers have beaten Miami once and San Antonio twice during their current run.

Chris Paul had 19 points and hit a 10-foot jumper with 24.6 seconds left to help Los Angeles beat the Spurs 92-87 on Monday in the opener of a challenging four-game trip that includes stops in Brooklyn and Atlanta. The Clippers are 3-0 away from home.

"It's a good win, a good road win, but at the same time the season is still very young and we've still got a lot of road games left to play," forward Blake Griffin told the Clippers' official website.

In position to win seven straight for the first time since an eight-game run Nov. 30-Dec. 15, 1991, the Clippers share the West lead because of some strong overall play. Los Angeles leads the conference in shooting at 49.2 percent and is second in scoring with 101.5 points per game. It's tied for second in the West giving up an average of 92.6 points but believes it can play better defensively.

"We know we're a handful on the offensive end," reserve forward Matt Barnes said. "If we can start controlling the defensive end, that's when we're really going to start winning games and making an imprint in this league. We have the talent to do it. We have the athleticism to do it. It's just the heart and hunger to do it."

Oklahoma City averaged 87.5 points and shot 39.2 percent while dropping the final two meetings with Los Angeles last season.

The Thunder (8-3), who lost three of four to the Clippers in 2011-12, enter this contest winners of two straight and seven of eight. Oklahoma City has averaged 104.3 points and shot 49.4 percent over those eight contests.

Kevin Durant posted his first career triple-double with 25 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists while Russell Westbrook scored 30 and Kevin Martin added 23 off the bench in Sunday's 119-109 win over Golden State.

Durant's scoring average is down from last season's 28.0 to 24.5, but he's averaging career highs of 10.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists. He's averaged 28.7 points, 10.7 boards and 6.7 assists in the last three games.

"There's going to be nights where I have to score 30. There's going to be nights where I have to have seven or eight assists," Durant said. "So, I'm just trying to be an all-around player and just continue to help my team win."

Griffin has averaged 20.7 points in the last three games but has been held to 23 on 9-of-26 shooting (34.6 percent) in the last two at Oklahoma City.

The Clippers won't have starting forward Caron Butler available due to a strained right shoulder. Butler is averaging 9.4 points and has made 14 of 28 3-point attempts.