NBA powerhouses collide, as Clips host Thunder at Staples

11:34 AM, Jan 22, 2013   |    comments
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(Sports Network) - The NBA's two best teams square off in one of the most- anticipated games of the season Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Clippers welcome the reigning Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder to the Staples Center.

The San Antonio Spurs have one more win than these two, but the Thunder and Clippers own the best winning percentages in the league.

This is the second meeting of the season between the Thunder and Clippers. Oklahoma City won a 117-111 overtime thriller at home on Nov. 21. The two squads play once more on March 3 in L.A.

The Thunder are on game three of a six-game western road trip. Their six-game winning streak was stopped Sunday night in Denver when Oklahoma City lost a heartbreaker, 121-118, in overtime.

The Thunder went on a 13-2 run just to force overtime, then Kevin Durant missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the extra session.

Durant was brilliant once again. He finished with 37 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, while going 20-for-21 from the free-throw line. He went a perfect 21-for-21 from the charity stripe Friday night in another overtime victory in Dallas.

But Durant, a West starter in the All-Star game, shot just 7-for-20 from the field.

"When I miss, sometimes it is defense, most of the time it is me," Durant said. "I just need to focus a little better on my shots and they will start falling."

Russell Westbrook was equally spectacular against the Nuggets. He netted 36 points, handed out nine assists and grabbed eight rebounds in just over 48 minutes of action. Westbrook buried a 3-pointer with 23 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime.

"He willed us back to tie the game up," Durant said. "He hit a big shot. He was getting to the rim, getting fouls called on him, putting pressure on the defense. He played well for us. He played his heart out."

The Thunder are 13-6 outside of OKC.

The Clippers are coming off a 106-99 setback Monday evening to the Golden State Warriors. That loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Clippers, who are 7-4 in January.

Chris Paul, like Durant, a starter in next month's All-Star game, played in his second game since coming back from a bruised knee cap and struggled. He only managed a season-low four points, but dished out nine assists.

Blake Griffin had a brilliant all-around game with 26 points, 13 rebounds, eighth assists, three steals and two blocks. According to the Clippers website, LeBron James is the only player since 2001 to put up that kind of all-around statistical performance.

"Blake was aggressive the whole game," Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We were trying to get (Stephen) Curry in foul trouble which we did and David Lee. We couldn't convert on that stuff, but Blake set the tone for us the whole game. He was aggressive. We went to him a lot. He produced. We just weren't able to convert down the stretch."

The Clippers took a seven-point lead into the final quarter, but were outscored by 14 in the final frame. Their defense wasn't there on Monday, allowing the Warriors to shoot 52 percent from the field and 54.5 percent from long range.

Los Angeles has won three of its last five against the Thunder and four straight at home.

The Sports Network

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