THE FACTS: Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook finished the game the way he started it Sunday afternoon, with unwavering confidence and execution. Westbrook scored 10 of his 29 points in the final five minutes to lift Oklahoma City past the Clippers, 108-104, at Staples Center. With the victory, the Thunder held on to second place in the Western Conference and set the tone for a potential second-round playoff matchup with the third-place Clippers.
THE STAT: Both teams combined for 48 fouls, 56 free throw attempts, two technical fouls and a flagrant 1 that will be remembered should these teams meet again in the spring.
QUOTABLE: "It was a good win, a good road win for us. It was definitely a physical game in a playoff-type atmosphere."
TURNING POINT: The Thunder led by 19 points with about four minutes remaining in the third quarter and appeared well on their way to a 3-0 season sweep of the Clippers. But the hosts didn't throw in the towel, instead cutting the deficit to nine on a three-point play by Chris Paul at the end of the third. A 10-0 run put L.A. within two points midway through the final quarter, and the Clippers eventually moved ahead, 100-99, on a 3-point basket by Jamal Crawford with 1:30 left. After a Thunder timeout, Westbrook drove straight down the lane and laid the ball in to regain the lead. Clippers forward Blake Griffin was called for an offensive foul on the other end while tipping in a miss by Paul, then fouled out on Serge Ibaka's three-point play off a Westbrook assist with 59 seconds on the clock. The play extended Oklahoma City's lead to 104-100. The Clippers cut the deficit back to two with 47 seconds remaining, but Westbrook hit a baseline jumper with 26 seconds left for the final dagger.
HOT: Westbrook, who came in shooting 35.2 percent from the floor in his career against the Clippers, the lowest mark of any NBA opponent, showed he was ready to buck that trend by scoring 14 points in the first quarter on 6-for-9 shooting. He finished 11-for-20 from the field and also dished out 10 assists. Kevin Durant dented the Clippers with a team-high 35 points and nine rebounds. He had 20 points in the first half, just the second time this season he has hit the mark in the opening 24 minutes. Griffin and Crawford had the hot hand for the Clippers, scoring 20 points apiece and combining to shoot 15-for-27.
NOT: The Clippers committed 10 turnovers in the opening quarter and were credited with 16 at the half, the most of any half this season. They finished with 21, resulting in 24 points for the Thunder. Griffin picked up two fouls in the first 4:09 of the game, taking a seat until the 8:54 mark of the second. His replacement, Lamar Odom, had three points, three fouls and three turnovers in five minutes of action, leaving seldom-used forward Ryan Hollins to come off the bench and play alongside Ronny Turiaf for the final 2:24 of the opening quarter. Hollins and Turiaf were hardly a front line that could cause Oklahoma City problems.
QUOTABLE II: "The turnovers in the first half really put us back on our heels and gave them a nice cushion. We could never get any rhythm because of our turnovers."
-- Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro.
GOOD MOVE: After the Clippers had taken their first lead of the game with 90 seconds remaining, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks didn't get fancy during the timeout, instead instructing Westbrook to drive right through the teeth of L.A.'s defense. Westbrook was hardly challenged as he tore through the lane and flipped the ball over the rim, sending a hush over the sold-out crowd.
BAD MOVE: Ibaka may have lost some respect around the league after he appeared to hit Griffin in the groin as the jockeyed under the basket during a made 3-pointer by Clippers forward Matt Barnes with 1:52 left. The basket cut the deficit to 99-96. The officials reviewed the play and called a flagrant 1 foul on Ibaka. After Griffin made one of two free throws, the Clippers secured two offensive rebounds on the ensuing possession before Crawford hit the 3-pointer that briefly gave L.A. the lead. Thanks to Ibaka, the trip down the floor resulted in seven points for the Clippers and nearly led to an unforgettable loss by the Thunder.
QUOTABLE III: "It's not anything [where] I want to try to hurt him. I'm not that kind of person. I just try to play. [Griffin] grabbed my jersey first. I wanted to try to defend myself."
NOTABLE: The Clippers fell to 0-4 against the league's top three teams in the last six weeks. They lost by 12 to visiting Oklahoma City on Jan. 22, by 21 at Miami on Feb. 8 and by 26 against visiting San Antonio on Feb. 21. ... Thunder starting center Kendrick Perkins scored on a dunk midway through the third quarter, his only basket in three games against the Clippers this season. ... Oklahoma City entered the game No. 1 in the league in free-throw percentage and the Clippers No. 27, but it was L.A. that shot 86.4 percent (19-22) compared to 73.5 percent (25-34) for the Thunder. ...
UP NEXT: For the Clippers, Wednesday vs. Milwaukee, Thursday @ Denver, Sunday vs. Detroit. For the Thunder, Tuesday vs. L.A. Lakers, Thursday @ New York, Friday @ Charlotte.