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Clippers-Thunder: Two slumping teams try to get untracked

Oklahoma City was flying high just a few days ago, as the Thunder entered Wednesday’s game at New Orleans with the best record in the Western Conference.
But the Thunder enter Friday’s home game against the Los Angeles Clippers needing to get things turned around, especially on the offensive side.
All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook was just 5 of 15 from the field in Friday’s 109-98 loss to Denver. Westbrook has made more than two 3-pointers in a game just once this season going into Saturday’s game.
The Thunder have been most effective this season when attacking the basket. But they have had problems recently as Westbrook has struggled offensively even on the inside, and Oklahoma City’s offense has grown stagnant at times.
“I think from an identity standpoint, the way we want to play — we want to play downhill,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said.
Westbrook has struggled offensive recently, shooting 42 of 110 (38.2 percent) from the floor in December.
The Thunder come into the game having lost two consecutive games for the first time since their 0-4 start to the season Oct. 16-25. Oklahoma City has lost three of its last four.
Oklahoma City, which coming off Friday’s loss to the Nuggets, is 2-1 this season on the second night of back-to-backs. The Thunder are near the start of a stretch in which they will play nine of 13 games on the road.
The Clippers have lost four of their last five after Thursday’s 125-87 loss to the Sours. That was the first of nine consecutive games against Western Conference opponents.
This has been Los Angeles’ roughest stretch of the season, and it hasn’t lost three in a row this year.
“It’s a long season,” Clippers guard Patrick Beverley said. “You play long enough the game teaches itself and it told us, as a unit, we can’t ease into games. That’s what we’re trying to do lately and we can’t do that. We’re not that good, not right now. But we can be.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers expanded his rotation recently, playing all his players who dressed — 12 total — at least nine minutes in Thursday’s blowout loss in San Antonio. Rivers is trying to keep his team fresh.
“I played a long time ago and I knew when I didn’t have energy, but it usually didn’t mean the next game I wouldn’t have energy,” Rivers said. “It means there were nights that I showed up (and) I tried to do everything I possibly could do to get ready and I came into the game and I just didn’t have it, unfortunately.
“They’re human and sometimes it happens. You know this is a long stretch, so you see it over and over again. What they’re telling you is they’re tired and you probably have to just try and play a bigger rotation, which sometimes you don’t want to do, but sometimes you have to do it.”
The teams have split their two meetings so far this season, with the Clippers winning 108-92 on Oct. 19 at home and the Thunder winning 128-110 on Oct. 30 at home
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Thunderous part of Thunder’s schedule opens vs. Clippers

OKLAHOMA CITY — The soft stretch of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s schedule is over.

Over the last three weeks, the Thunder have played six of their nine games against teams near the bottom of the standings.
Oklahoma City won all six of those games and beat one of the three teams — the San Antonio Spurs — who they played who are battling for a playoff spot.
But starting with Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Thunder have 11 consecutive games against teams with winning records.
“This is why we wanted to join forces and come together, for these type of moments and to gear up for the postseason,” Oklahoma City forward Carmelo Anthony said, referring to Anthony and Paul George joining Russell Westbrook on the Thunder. “For us as a group, we feel like that’s where we’re headed.”
But with 12 games remaining, the time to gear up is now.
To do it, they’ll have to turn around recent fortunes against teams with winning records. Since Feb. 1, the Thunder are just 2-6 against teams with better-than-.500 records, beating only Golden State on the road and the Spurs at home.
The Thunder is 9-2 against teams with sub-.500 records during that stretch.
Oklahoma City comes into this tough stretch having won four consecutive games.
“For us, this is only going to prepare us,” Oklahoma City guard Corey Brewer said. “In the playoffs, there are no bad teams. If we’re gonna make the playoffs, why not go through what we’re gonna go through this next 11 games?”
While the Thunder are, for now at least, in the No. 4 spot in a jam-packed Western Conference race, the Clippers are on the outside looking in after Thursday’s loss to Houston.
Los Angeles has won 11 of their last 16 to stay in playoff contention. It led for a lot of time Thursday before the Rockets came back to take control.
The Clippers are trying to make the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season. The franchise had been to the playoffs only seven times total in the first 41 seasons before this recent stretch.
But this one won’t be easy, especially with a recent rash of injuries that included starting guard Avery Bradley being lost likely for the rest of the regular season with a hip and abdominal injury that required surgery and starting forward Danilo Gallinari suffering a broken right hand.
Friday’s game is the second in a stretch of nine road games in 11 games for the Clippers. Thursday’s game was the first of eight consecutive games against teams above .500 for Los Angeles.
Oklahoma City has won both of the teams’ first two meetings this season.
The Thunder could be without two of its biggest two-way weapons, though.
Center Steven Adams and George were both limited in Thursday’s practice and both are listed as questionable.
Adams missed Oklahoma City’s Tuesday win in Atlanta with a hip contusion suffered against Sacramento on Monday, while George suffered a pelvic strain in the second half Tuesday

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NBA roundup: George rescues Thunder in win vs. Timberwolves

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma City Thunder’s troublesome trend of letting second-half leads disappear looked like it was going to show itself again.

The Minnesota Timberwolves cut a double-digit Thunder lead to one possession with less than a minute to play, but Paul George hit two free throws with 5.2 seconds to play as the Thunder closed out a 111-107 win Friday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

George had 36 points and Oklahoma City center Steven Adams had 27.
Andrew Wiggins’ 3-pointer with 9.8 seconds to go had Minnesota as close as it had been since the first quarter, but unlike the Timberwolves’ last trip to Oklahoma City — when Wiggins banked in a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer — the Thunder put this one out of reach.

Heat 105, Hornets 100
MIAMI — Josh Richardson scored a career-high 27 points to lead Miami over Charlotte.
Dion Waiters finished with 19 points and Wayne Ellington scored 14 points as the Heat overcame a 15-point first-quarter deficit.
Miami took the lead for good and secured the victory with nine unanswered points late in the fourth quarter. Goran Dragic’s short jumper with 2:23 remaining in the period began the surge putting the Heat ahead 97-96.

Jazz 114, Bucks 108
SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell scored a career-high 41 points and Alec Burks added 24 to help Utah rally past New Orleans.
Derrick Favors chipped in 18 points and 11 rebounds for Utah as the Jazz won their fifth straight.
New Orleans had no way to slow Mitchell down after Anthony Davis exited with an apparent leg injury in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. Davis had to be helped off the court and did not return. He finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Kings 107, Bulls 106
CHICAGO – Zach Randolph scored 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 19 points and Garrett Temple finished with 13 as Sacramento was victorious on the road.
Willie Cauley-Stein also had 10 points for the Kings, who handed the Bulls their eighth straight loss.
Bogdanovic capped the victory by splitting a pair of free throws in the closing seconds before Jerian Grant hit a 3-point field goal at the buzzer as the Bulls suffered their second one-point loss in as many nights.

Spurs 95, Grizzlies 79
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — LaMarcus Aldridge scored 22 points and Rudy Guy added 18 to lead San Antonio. The Spurs extended the Grizzlies’ losing streak to 10 games, the longest in the NBA this season.
Marc Gasol had 16 points to lead the Grizzlies and Ben McLemore scored a season-high 14. Chandler Parsons added 12.
The Spurs (15-7), who beat Memphis 104-95 Wednesday night in San Antonio, pulled away from the Grizzlies in the fourth quarter and led by as many as 28 points down the stretch.

Warriors 133, Magic 112
ORLANDO, Fla. — Klay Thompson scored 27 points and hot-shooting Golden State led from start to finish.
Kevin Durant scored 25 points and made 10 of 14 shots, but he was ejected with 4:52 remaining for cursing at an official following his final basket.
Steph Curry had 23 points and 10 assists. Jordan Bell had 16 points. Draymond Green scored 12 points, including back-to-back 3-pointers in the second period.

Wizards 109, Pistons 91
WASHINGTON — Washington outscored Detroit 35-15 in the third quarter and evened its record on the season without All-Star John Wall.
Markieff Morris scored a season-high 23 points and Otto Porter had 17 for the Wizards, who had lost five of seven games. That includes two of the last three without Wall. The point guard was shut down on Nov. 25 after receiving injections in his left knee to help relieve inflammation.
Tobias Harris scored 15 points for the Pistons. Detroit had won three in a row.

Raptors 120, Pacers 115
TORONTO — DeMar DeRozan scored 26 points and added five assists and five rebounds to lead Toronto.
It was the third win in a row for the Raptors and the second straight loss for the Pacers who got 36 points, seven rebounds and six assists from Victor Oladipo.
The Raptors took a five-point lead into the fourth quarter and expanded it to 13 nearing the midway point of the period

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NBA roundup: Butler leads Timberwolves over Thunder

MINNEAPOLIS — Jimmy Butler scored a season-high 25 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 119-116 victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.

Karl-Anthony Towns had season highs with 33 points and 19 rebounds, and Jeff Teague added 17 points and 10 assists for Minnesota, which beat Oklahoma City last Sunday on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins chipped in 14 points on Friday, and Taj Gibson had his best game with the Timberwolves with 16 points on 8-of-12 shooting and eight rebounds.

Russell Westbrook had 27 points, eight rebounds and nine assists for the Thunder, who have lost three of their past four games. Carmelo Anthony and Paul George each scored 23 points for Oklahoma City.

Warriors 120, Wizards 117
OAKLAND — Golden State shook off a terrible shooting effort in the first half and the loss of forward Draymond Green to a technical foul to erase an 18-point second-half deficit.
The Warriors missed on 17 of 20 3-point attempts in the first half then lost Green when he and Washington Wizards’ guard Bradley Beal got into a fight in front of the Washington bench with 19.5 seconds left in the first half.
Washington got the lead up to 18 points twice midway through the third quarter, but Steph Curry, who had been chilly throughout, knocked home two 3s and two free throws in the final 57 seconds of the third quarter to get the Warriors within 10, down 97-87.
Golden State erupted for 33 points in the fourth quarter, taking the lead for good on an Andre Iguodala layup off a Curry pass with 3:13 to go.

Nuggets 105, Hawks 100
ATLANTA — The Denver Nuggets snapped a five-season losing streak in Atlanta, spoiling the Hawks’ home opener and making a winner of Paul Millsap in his return to Philips Arena.
Milllsap scored seven of his 16 points down the stretch for the Nuggets, who won in Atlanta for the first time since March 16, 2011.
Gary Harris and Will Barton each had 18 points for the Nuggets, while Nikola Jokic also contributed 18 points and added 15 rebounds.

Knicks 107, Nets 86
NEW YORK — Kristaps Porzingis scored 30 points as the New York Knicks pulled away in the third quarter and beat the Brooklyn Nets.
Porzingis helped the Knicks avoid their first 0-4 start since dropping the first five games of the 59-loss 2005-06 season by making 13 of 24 shots.
The third-year forward thrived against most defenders the Nets put on him, but seemed to do his best work against Rondae-Hollis Jefferson. He turned in his third 30-point game of the season as the Knicks rebounded from Tuesday’s 110-89 loss at Boston.

Rockets 109, Hornets 93
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — James Harden had a triple-double with 27 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds as the Houston Rockets pulled away late over the Charlotte Hornets.
The Rockets finished 22 of 57 from 3-point range, for 38.6 percent. They made six more 3-pointers than they did 2-pointers in the game.
The 57 3-point attempts were the second-most in a game in NBA history, just four shy of the 61 the Rockets attempted to set the record last year. They have now attempted 50 or more 11 times in the past two seasons.

Magic 114, Spurs 87
ORLANDO, Fla. — Evan Fournier scored 25 points and the upstart Orlando Magic demolished the previously unbeaten San Antonio Spurs.
The Magic (4-1) started fast and never slowed. They led by 14 points after the first quarter, 27 at halftime and by 31 points after three periods. They led by as many as 36 midway in the third.
Magic reserve Jonathon Simmons, who played in San Antonio the past two seasons, had 17 points. Aaron Gordon scored 16 points and Nikola Vucevic 15 for the Magic.

Raptors 101, Lakers 92
LOS ANGELES — The Toronto Raptors rallied from a 17-point second-quarter deficit and took advantage of a four-minute scoreless stretch by the Los Angeles Lakers.
DeMar DeRozan scored eight of his 24 points in the final 6:10 to secure Toronto’s sixth consecutive win against Los Angeles. Kyle Lowry finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists for his ninth career triple-double.
The Lakers took an 83-80 lead on a 3-pointer by Josh Hart with 6:56 remaining, but the Lakers didn’t score again until 2:50 remained, getting outscored 14-0 in between

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NBA roundup: Knicks no match for Thunder’s Big 3

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma City Thunder’s new-look roster got off to a big start Thursday night.

New additions Carmelo Anthony and Paul George teamed up with Russell Westbrook to score a combined 71 points as the Thunder beat the New York Knicks 105-84 in the season opener for both teams.
Westbrook turned in a triple-double with 21 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds. George finished with 28 points while Anthony added 22.
Kristaps Porzingis led the Knicks with 31 points and 12 rebounds. The only other New York player to score in double digits was Enes Kanter, who had 10 points.

Clippers 108, Lakers 92
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Clippers continued their recent domination of the Los Angeles Lakers with a victory in the season opener for both teams. The Clippers have won 19 of the past 21 meetings with the Lakers since the start of the 2012-13 season.
Blake Griffin had 29 points and 12 rebounds, and DeAndre Jordan finished with 14 points and 24 rebounds to lead the Clippers.
Rookie Lonzo Ball made his NBA debut for the Lakers, and the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA Draft finished with three points, nine rebounds, four assists and two turnovers while shooting 1 of 6 from the floor.

Raptors 117, Bulls 101
TORONTO — Jonas Valanciunas scored 23 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, C.J. Miles added 22 points off the bench, and Toronto defeated Chicago in the opening game of the season for each team.
Norman Powell added 15 points for the Raptors, while Kyle Lowry scored 12 points and had nine assists. Delon Wright added 13 points with DeMar DeRozan contributing 11.
Robin Lopez scored 18 points and nabbed eight rebounds for the Bulls. Rookie Lauri Markkanen had 17 points and eight rebounds, Justin Holiday added 15 points, and Denzel Valentine scored 12