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June 28, 2017

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Clippers steamroll Thunder in series opener

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Chris Paul scored 17 of his 32 points in the first quarter on Monday as the Los Angeles Clippers routed Oklahoma City 122-105 in their NBA playoff series opener.

The Clippers seized control early and never let up, leading by as many as 29 points en route to the triumph that gave them a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference second-round series.

Paul shook off a right hamstring injury and sprained left thumb, connecting on his first eight three-point attempts and missing only two of his 14 shots from the field overall.

He threw in 10 assists for good measure as the Clippers showed no hangover from a tough seven-game first-round tussle with Golden State, which was played in the shadow of the controversy over racially charged comments by Clippers owner Donald Sterling that got the 80-year-old billionaire banned for life from all NBA activities.

The Clippers shot a sizzling 54.9 percent from the field and connected on 15 of 29 from three-point range.

Blake Griffin scored 23 points while Jamal Crawford contributed 17 points off the bench.

The Thunder, who were coming off their own punishing seven-game series against the Memphis Grizzlies, received characteristically strong outings from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook scored a team-high 29 points while Durant — widely expected to be named the league's Most Valuable Player this week — added 25 for Oklahoma City, who will look to rebound when they host game two on Wednesday.

Paul said the Clippers would have to put their big win behind them by then.

"We don't go into game two with a 17 point lead," he said. "You've got to come back and be hungry."

Durant could hardly wait for Wednesday and the chance for redemption to arrive.

"A loss is a loss," Durant said. "It's tough to swallow, especially on your home floor in the playoffs. We play again on Wednesday. That's the best part about it, just knowing that the games come so quickly."

The Clippers had closed out their series-clinching win over Golden State with a 39-point fourth quarter, and they scored 39 in the first quarter against the Thunder.

Clippers coach Glenn "Doc" Rivers said there was no real secret to their success.

"We moved the ball. We shared the ball. We were really good with our spacing tonight," Rivers said. "Tonight we just had one of those nights where the ball found the open guy every single time.

"The second part is, you have to make (the shot), and we did that, too," Rivers added.

Paul followed a JJ Redick three-pointer with his first from behind the arc to knot the score at 16-16 halfway through the first quarter.

He added two more from three-point range in a 13-2 scoring run that gave the Clippers a 34-22 lead.

Paul's fifth three-pointer in the closing seconds of the opening period produced a 39-25 lead and the Thunder never got the gap under 13 points from there.

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