LOS ANGELES -- First came the fight, then the response.
When the dust settled Wednesday at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Clippers cleared a major hurdle by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-103, defeating their Western Conference nemesis for the first time in two seasons.
The catalyst was a first-half shoving match between Clippers forward Matt Barnes and Thunder forward Serge Ibaka that resulted in both players getting tossed from the game.
Barnes came to the defense of Clippers forward Blake Griffin, who got tangled up with Ibaka as they battled for a rebound. Griffin shoved Ibaka to incite a skirmish under the Clippers basket.
"Just a little extra after the play," Griffin said. "I didn't think it was going to turn into all that. But when I turned around I heard all the ohhs and ahhs, I knew we were into something. I just tried to hold my ground."
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said, "They got tangled up and that's part of it. That's nothing I get into. My job is to coach, players play. I have no complaints about what happened."
The Clippers (6-3) trailed by six points at the time, but they turned it around from that point. By the end of the third quarter, Los Angeles led 83-78 after holding the Thunder to 5-of-17 shooting and 16 points in the period.
The Clippers allowed just 41 points in the second half and no transition points.
"If we can play defense like that, win or lose, I'll be happy," Clippers guard Chris Paul said.
Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers added, "That's who we can be for 48 minutes. We just aren't there yet."
Griffin had 20 points and 12 rebounds to lead six Clippers in double figures. Guard J.J. Redick and center DeAndre Jordan added 15 points apiece, and guard Jamal Crawford came off the bench to score 20 points.
Paul didn't have a good shooting night, hitting just five of 15 attempts from the floor, but he finished with 14 points and dished out 16 assists to go along with seven rebounds.
Paul is the first player in franchise history to have at least 10 points and 10 assists in each of the first nine games of a season.
The Thunder (5-2) played without center Kendrick Perkins, who is away from the team for two games mourning the death of his grandfather. The loss of Ibaka further depleted Oklahoma City's frontcourt.
Ibaka had 13 points at the time of his ejection, and his loss was a huge blow to the short-handed Thunder, who lost for the first time in four games.
Thunder forward Kevin Durant had 33 points, hitting 15 of 17 free throws, and he added 10 assists and six rebounds. Guard Russell Westbrook scored 19 points, but no other Oklahoma City player reached double figures.
"We're not making excuses. We must finish games no matter who's out there," Durant said. "They beat us."
The Clippers outrebounded the Thunder 50-35.
"We gave them too many opportunities off of their turnovers and offensive rebounds," Brooks said. "Those are the two areas that gave them their chance. They're one of the best teams in basketball, that's obvious. They have a good team."
NOTES: Thunder G Russell Westbrook, who grew up in the Los Angeles area and attended UCLA, celebrated his 25th birthday Tuesday. "He's an old man now," Thunder coach Scott Brooks joked. "He has an amazing ability to lead, and he's done an amazing job so far this season. I'm excited about what he brings to this team." The Thunder are 4-1 since Westbrook's return from knee surgery in early October. ... Clippers coach Doc Rivers reached out to Thunder C Kendrick Perkins -- who played for Rivers in Boston -- after the death of Perkins' grandfather. "Perk's very close to me and always will be," Rivers said. "We won together, and I've said it a hundred times, but when you do something together, it's like you had a blood transfusion. You're part of that person's life."