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03/03/2013 7:51 PM EST
Thunder holds off Clippers to win 108-104
OKLAHOMA CITY 108, LA CLIPPERS 104

By BETH HARRIS
AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- With Oklahoma City trying to hold off another
marquee team, Russell Westbrook took charge - in the huddle. He
urged his Thunder teammates to keep their composure, set screens
and play defense.



They listened and turned away a late rally by the Los Angeles
Clippers to win 108-104 on Sunday in a matchup of Western
Conference contenders.



"It was a good road win for us in a playoff-type atmosphere,"
said Westbrook, who had 29 points and 10 assists. "We did a good
job of keeping their crowd out of the game."



Kevin Durant poured in 35 points and Serge Ibaka had 16 as
Oklahoma City ended a three-game road skid, bouncing back less
than 48 hours after losing at Denver. They also completed a
season sweep of the Clippers, who are chasing the Thunder and
NBA-best San Antonio in the West.



"We weren't in a panic mode," Westbrook said. "We just wanted to
win."



Chris Paul scored 26 points and Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford
added 20 points apiece for the Clippers, whose four-game winning
streak ended in their third loss to the Thunder this season.
Paul made all nine of his free throws to help his team go 19 for
22 from the line.



"We came up short, and it seemed like every time something
happened, we just couldn't get over the hump," Paul said. "They
got the timely calls when they needed them, but they played a
pretty good game."



The referees were busy for much of the day, with the Clippers
called for 26 fouls to the Thunder's 22 in a physical game that
featured double technicals on Caron Butler and Kendrick Perkins
for their verbal exchange and Ibaka's flagrant-1 foul on
Griffin.



"It's always going to be a tough, chippy game any time we play
them because we're both pretty physical teams with physical
bigs, so there's a lot of pushing and all that down low,"
Griffin said. "I guess it's tough to officiate and know what to
call and what not to, but they seemed to know today what to
call."



The Clippers had four players in foul trouble in the second
half: Griffin, Butler, Lamar Odom and Matt Barnes. Griffin
fouled out with 59 seconds left. They went 9 for 24 from 3-point
range and had 21 turnovers, including 16 in the first half -
their most in a half this season.



"That's embarrassing. That's crazy. That's not like us," Paul
said. "In the first half, they just did a good job of mucking
the lane up. Every time I came down court, I saw a wall. They
basically trapped me into ball screens. In the second half, we
brought L.O. in and we went small, which opened the court up.
And once we opened the court up, we could get into the lane and
make plays and fire up shots."



Los Angeles came in trailing the Thunder by a half-game for
second in the West, but played from behind nearly the entire
game. The Clippers trimmed a 19-point deficit to 82-73 at the
end of the third. Odom hit a 3-pointer and Paul completed a
three-point play to give them the momentum and get the crowd
back into the game.



"There's no such thing as moral victories to us," Griffin said.
"We've been in this situation before, but we don't want to put
ourselves in that situation. We've got to be better from start
to finish to beat a team like this."



The Clippers outscored the Thunder 12-5 to open the fourth. Paul
had six points, including a driving layup and a floater in the
lane over Durant. Griffin then fed Crawford in the right corner
for a 3-pointer that left the Clippers trailing 91-90.



The Thunder responded with six straight points, but Los Angeles
rallied again. Barnes hit back-to-back 3-pointers on offensive
rebounds to get the Clippers within three. Ibaka chopped Griffin
in the right hip before Barnes' second 3 went in, with Griffin
collapsing to the court and Ibaka receiving the flagrant.



"It's basketball, man," Griffin said. "Sometimes you take things
a little too far, but I wasn't provoking (Ibaka) or anything
like that."



Said Thunder coach Scott Brooks: "It was a scrum and both were
battling for position."



A video review confirmed the call and Griffin went to the line,
missing the first and making the second. The Clippers retained
possession and Crawford hit a 3-pointer to give them their first
lead of the game at 100-99 with 1:30 to play.



"He told us to keep playing," Durant said of Westbrook.
"Everyone in the huddle was calm. We had a tough stretch but it
was about how we bounced back."



The Thunder scored nine of the final 13 points.



Brooks credited Westbrook for instilling calm in the late going.



"His leadership is getting better year by year and it should
be," he said. "Tonight was a classic example of what he's done.
He's an emotional guy, but he keeps everything together."



The Thunder reached its first double-digit lead in the second
during a 12-2 run that made it 53-37. Durant and Thabo Sefolosha
hit back-to-back 3-pointers en route to a 54-41 lead at the
break.



"We were moving the ball and doing a good job of closing the
paint up," Durant said. "We eliminated some of these big-time
plays."



Besides the turnovers, the Clippers were just 2 of 11 from
3-point range, missing four straight to close the second
quarter.



NOTES: The Thunder improved to 13-3 in games played after a
loss. ... The Clippers fell to 23-7 at home. ... Griffin has 10
straight games with 16-plus points, seven-plus rebounds and
two-plus assists, the longest such streak in the league this
season.

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