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Thunder clinch West's top seed, beat Kings 104-95

AP - Sports
Thunder clinch West's top seed, beat Kings 104-95
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OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 15: Ronnie Brewer #8 of the Oklahoma City Thunder grabs a rebound against the …

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Kevin Durant scored 29 points, Russell Westbrook had 21 before getting ejected in the final 3 minutes and the Oklahoma City Thunder clinched the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs by beating the Sacramento Kings 104-95 on Monday night.

Tyreke Evans, the Kings' second-leading scorer, did not return after grabbing at his troublesome left knee following a drive to the basket late in the first quarter.

Durant hit a 3-pointer and Westbrook set up Serge Ibaka for a two-handed slam during a string of 11 straight Thunder points midway through the third quarter that stretched the lead to 75-51.

Sacramento was able to cut the deficit to 11 early in the fourth quarter and force coach Scott Brooks to put Durant and Westbrook back in and close out the game.

Westbrook didn't make it until the very end, drawing his second technical foul of the game with 2:28 left after spiking the basketball following Travis Outlaw's dunk that brought Sacramento within 100-88. The two technical fouls brought Westbrook's total to 15 for the season, one short of the number that would draw him an automatic one-game suspension.

It appeared as though he - along with Durant and Ibaka - wouldn't return after Westbrook was called for a technical foul with 3:04 left in the third quarter for complaining to referee David Guthrie that he had been hit in the face with no foul called.

Westbrook continued complaining until Guthrie instructed reserve Daniel Orton to lead Westbrook to the bench with Oklahoma City leading 76-55.

But the Kings soon pieced together a 12-2 comeback late in the third quarter, and Brooks called timeout after Sacramento scored six straight points to cut the lead to 84-73 with 9 1/2 minutes left. Durant and Westbrook returned, and Sacramento couldn't get within double digits until Jimmer Fredette's four-point play with 7.8 seconds to go.

Isaiah Thomas led the Kings with 16 points, Outlaw scored 15 and Cole Aldrich had a double-double for the second straight game by tying his career best with 12 points and setting a career high with 13 rebounds.

Demarcus Cousins, who was allowed to play after the NBA rescinded his 16th technical foul of the season, had just seven points and six rebounds and didn't play in the fourth quarter.

Evans, who missed 16 games from late November through early January because of left knee injuries, clutched at the front of that knee as he lay under the basket following an awkward landing. His right foot appeared to slip on the court as his left leg folded up underneath him.

Outlaw and a trainer helped him off the court and down a tunnel to the locker room with 2 minutes left in the first quarter. A team spokesman described the injury as a left quadriceps strain.

Evans is a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

The Thunder scored the first eight points of the game and didn't relinquish the lead, despite losing Thabo Sefolosha and Hasheem Thabeet to two fouls apiece within the first 7 minutes. The Kings got as close as one and were down 20-16 after Evans' layup.

Oklahoma City used a 13-4 run early in the second quarter to stretch the lead to 38-25 after Durant's 3-pointer, and the Thunder were up by as much as 14 before Thomas' 3 got Sacramento back within 54-43 at halftime

Notes: While Durant is trailing New York's Carmelo Anthony in his bid to win a fourth straight NBA scoring title, Brooks thinks another feat would be equally impressive. Durant is trying to become the sixth player in league history to shoot at least 50 percent on field goals, 40 percent on 3-pointers and 90 percent on free throws for a season. The others are Reggie Miller, Mark Price, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Larry Bird. ''To be able to score as many points as he has scored and shoot that well is pretty impressive. It doesn't happen that often,'' Brooks said. Brooks actually came close in Houston's 1993-94 championship season, making 48 percent on field goals, 38 percent on 3s and 87 percent at the foul line. ... For the second straight April, Cousins was able to play at Oklahoma City only after the NBA rescinded a technical foul that would have otherwise resulted in an automatic suspension. ''You want to get it to where those things are all behind us, where we don't worry about any of those things anymore, to where we can focus on just the game and focus on the opponent,'' coach Keith Smart said. ''We don't have to worry about anything that's outside the lines.''

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