Thunder open gap on Clippers
AP Friday, April 11, 2014, 12:02 am TWN
LOS ANGELES -- A strengthened Oklahoma City beat the Los Angeles Clippers 107-101 in Wednesday's clash of NBA divisional leaders, with Russell Westbrook scoring 30 points in his return to the lineup.
The Thunder opened a 2-1/2 game lead on its Western Conference rival on a day of playoff-shaping results.
Faltering Miami lost again, beaten by a Memphis team that kept up its postseason push, Denver hung on to beat playoff-bound Houston, and Chicago improved its chances of taking the third seed in the East by beating Minnesota.
Oklahoma City also got 27 points from Kevin Durant, who had their starting five together for just the second time since Christmas Day. Westbrook had sat out two of the previous three games and has missed 34 games this season with a variety of injuries.
Blake Griffin had 30 points and 12 rebounds for the Clippers, who could have claimed the tiebreaker over the Thunder if they had won. Instead, the teams split their season series 2-2.
Memphis kept up in the playoff race by winning 107-102 at home against Miami.
Zach Randolph had 25 points and 11 rebounds while Marc Gasol added 20 points and 14 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who stayed one game off the final playoff spot in the West.
LeBron James led the Heat with 37 points, connecting on 14 of 23 shots, including 3 of 5 from beyond the arc, but the defeat dropped Miami into second in the East, behind Indiana.
Denver's Randy Foye scored 24 of his 30 points in the second half to allow the Nuggets to hang on and beat Houston 123-116. Kenneth Faried had 23 points.
Jeremy Lin led eight Houston players in double figures with 18 points.
Chicago stayed level with Toronto for third place in the East after winning 102-87 at Minnesota.
D.J. Augustin scored 21 points and Joakim Noah posted his league-leading fourth triple-double of the season, with 15 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
Kevin Love had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Timberwolves. But he only made 7 of 20 shots and missed six of his eight 3-point attempts.
Chicago was 11 for 21 from 3-point range while Minnesota was just 4 for 17.
Charlotte won its fifth-straight game and moved into sixth in the East with a 94-88 overtime win at Washington.
Kemba Walker made the only field goal for either team in overtime and finished with 17 points and 12 assists, while Al Jefferson had 20 points and 18 rebounds for the Bobcats, who are on their longest winning streak since 2009-10; the only other season they made the playoffs.
Washington was 0 for 8 from the field in overtime, scoring just one point from a free throw.
Phoenix remained a game ahead of Memphis for the last playoff spot in the West by winning 94-88 at New Orleans.
Gerald Green scored 21 points and Goran Dragic had 20 points and nine assists for the Suns, who have won three straight.
Rookie center Jeff Withey had a career-high 17 points for the Pelicans, who have lost six in a row.
Portland's Dorell Wright hit a 3-pointer with 7.9 seconds left to give the Trail Blazers a 100-99 win over late-charging Sacramento.
Indiana's Chris Copeland hit a driving layup with 1.2 seconds remaining to give the Pacers a 104-102 victory over Milwaukee to reclaim top spot in the East.
Orlando's Arron Afflalo scored 25 points as the Magic edged an undermanned Brooklyn 115-111.
Toronto's Jonas Valanciunas had 26 points and 12 rebounds to lift the Raptors to a 125-114 win over Philadelphia, less than three days after he was charged with drunk driving.
Cleveland beat Detroit 122-100 but were still eliminated from the playoff race by Atlanta's 105-97 win over Boston.
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