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Thunder open gap on Clippers for No. 2 in West

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- The little things made a big difference for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Guard Russell Westbrook scored 30 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out six assists, and the Thunder held on for a 107-101 decision over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night at Staples Center.

Forward Kevin Durant added 27 points, while forward Serge Ibaka chipped in 15 points, seven rebounds and four blocks.

"It's just a matter of us doing the small things," said Durant, who had an off night shooting, hitting just eight of 26 attempts and only one of seven from behind the 3-point arc. "Tonight, I think we did the small things. We got on the floor, we rebounded, we made big plays down the stretch, we played defense. Shot wasn't there sometimes, but we made up for it by our hustle plays. And if you do that, you give yourself a good chance."

The win gives Oklahoma City (57-21) a 2 1/2-game lead over the Clippers for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoff race, and it evened the season series at two games apiece. Los Angeles (55-24) lost for the second time in three games.

"I tried to do whatever it is to help us to win," said Westbrook, who finished with 12-for-24 from the floor.

Forward Blake Griffin had 30 points and 12 rebounds for the Clippers, and point guard Chris Paul finished with 25 points, eight assists and five rebounds.

"We have to be a team that stays together," said Griffin, who scored 18 of his points in the first half. "No matter what, we've got to know our identity every single night. I thought tonight we just kind of got away from it. I thought they played a little bit harder. They made the big plays, the made the small plays, and it made a difference."

Oklahoma City led 92-77 after Durant canned a jumper with 7:47 remaining in the game before the Clippers rallied. Paul's 3-point basket and center DeAndre Jordan's put-back dunk capped a 16-2 run as Los Angeles closed within 94-93 with about five minutes remaining. The Clippers, though, failed to grab a lead.

A 3-pointer by Durant gave the Thunder a 102-97 advantage, but guard Darren Collison answered with a trey to cut the lead to 102-100. Two free throws by Durant with 46.9 seconds left increased the margin to four, but a Paul free throw sliced the lead to 104-101 with 38.6 seconds to go.

Westbrook hit one of two from the charity stripe to give Oklahoma City a four-point advantage again.

Clippers guard J.J. Redick airballed a 3-point attempt before Los Angeles was forced to foul Westbrook with 10.2 seconds remaining. Westbrook hit both for the game's final points.

"We had so many opportunities tonight to win," Paul said. "This game, I mean we had (17) turnovers. It was uncharacteristic. A lot of live-ball turnovers, which led to layups. I missed three free throws. We didn't play like us."

After taking a 59-54 lead at intermission, Oklahoma City opened the third quarter with a 14-4 run for a 73-58 advantage following a dunk by Ibaka with 7:27 remaining.

The Thunder pushed the lead to 81-64 before a 9-0 surge by the Clippers cut the margin to 81-73 after a bucket inside by Griffin with 1:17 left in the quarter. However, after a free throw from Oklahoma City center Steven Adams, guard Reggie Jackson ended the quarter with a 3-pointer to give the Thunder an 85-73 lead.

The Clippers won the battle of the boards 52-44, but their 17 turnovers resulted in 22 points for the Thunder. Oklahoma City committed eight miscues, leading to only nine points for Los Angeles.

Collison scored 12 points, and Jordan finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks.

NOTES: Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers said Thunder F Kevin Durant deserves the MVP. Rivers added that Clippers F Blake Griffin should finish second. "I think Durant's had the best year," Rivers said. "I still think LeBron (James) is the best player in the NBA, but I think Durant has had an MVP year. I don't know who's had a better year. I honestly think Blake would be right behind (Durant), but I don't think I have a vote." ... Unless the Clippers and Thunder meet in the playoffs, Wednesday's game could be the final one at Staples Center for Oklahoma City G Derek Fisher, who is expected to retire at season's end. He scored four points Wednesday in 15 minutes. ... Since Jan. 1, Los Angeles has the league's second-best record (34-12). The San Antonio Spurs are No. 1 at 35-11.

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