Thunder-Clippers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 22, 2013
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers own the NBA's top two records, yet both are coming off losses. One of them is about to have the makings of a losing streak. Oklahoma City continues its season-high six-game road trip Tuesday night at Staples Center where the Clippers will try to avoid their second set of back-to-back losses this month. The Thunder are a league-best 32-9 but its six-game win streak was snapped with a 121-118 overtime loss at Denver on Sunday. Kevin Durant scored 37, setting a personal best with four straight contests of 30 or more points, while Russell Westbrook had 36. The Thunder, who trailed by 11 with three minutes left in regulation before coming back to force overtime, had been 20-5 when both scored at least 20. Westbrook has been nearly as spectacular as Durant of late, averaging 33.8 points over his last four games. He had seven turnovers against the Nuggets after having only five in his previous three games, but still flirted with a triple-double, adding nine assists and eight rebounds. He was also crucial in forcing overtime, scoring seven points over the final three minutes of regulation, including the game-tying 3-pointer with 23 seconds left. The point guard's 8.3 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game are all career-bests. "He plays, he competes, he does everything that we ask," said coach Scott Brooks, who was coaching a day after his mother, Lee, died on Saturday. "He improves every year. He plays defense at a high level. He's a two-way player and I don't know if there's a better one in the league that can do both of them." The Clippers (32-10) had a four-game winning streak stopped in a 106-99 loss at Golden State on Monday. Chris Paul - in his second game back after missing three with a knee injury - finished with a season-low four points on 1-of-7 shooting, though he also recorded nine assists. Coach Vinny Del Negro said Paul's status would be reevaluated for Tuesday's game. "You could see he doesn't have that extra burst like he usually has," Del Negro said. "It's nice to have him out there because he settles everything down. It's just that he can't play at the level he's used to with the injury." Jamal Crawford bounced back from a seven-point, 3-of-13 shooting performance in the previous game with 24 points, including a season-best six 3-pointers. Los Angeles held a seven-point lead with 11 minutes left, but missed all four free throws in the fourth quarter. The Clippers also allowed Stephen Curry to go 4 of 4 from 3-point range in the final 12 minutes. After Golden State connected on 12 of 22 from long range, the Clippers will need to tighten up defensively against the Thunder, who rank among the league leaders in 3-point percentage (38.8). They went 11 of 23 from beyond the arc in a 117-111 victory on Nov. 21 in the teams' first meeting this season. Paul struggled in that loss, scoring nine on 2-of-14 shooting, though Blake Griffin had 23 points. Durant scored 35 in that game but missed 19 of 26 shots. The Clippers have won four in a row at home against the Thunder.
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