LOS ANGELES – The day began for the Oklahoma City Thunder with the stunning news that part-owner Aubrey McClendon had died. It ended with the players and coaching staff shaking their heads for another reason.
The Thunder squandered a 22-point lead in a 103-98 loss to the Clippers on Wednesday night. Los Angeles ended the game with a 26-5 run after trailing by 16 with 7:30 left. Oklahoma City had only one field goal during that stretch, a 5.1-meter jumper by Kevin Durant.
“I’m not taking anything away from L.A. Obviously, they had to make the plays to get back in it,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “But did we beat ourselves, or did they beat us? The biggest decision that we have to make collectively, from an accountability standpoint, is that there’s got to be a whole level of sacrifice by everybody.”
Chris Paul had 21 points and 13 assists for Los Angeles, and DeAndre Jordan had 20 points and 18 rebounds. It was the largest comeback victory of the season for the Clippers, who reached the 40-win mark for the fifth year in a row and ninth time since the club relocated from San Diego to Los Angeles in 1984.
“Our intensity was key,” Paul said. “The defense picked up in the second half. I was out to start the fourth quarter, and Jamal Crawford looked at me and said: ‘We are going to get us back in this thing by the time you guys (the starters) get back in.’ I don’t know if he’s a fortune teller, but he did it.”
Durant scored 30 points and Russell Westbrook had 24 points and 12 assists for Oklahoma City in the first of three meetings this month between the teams with the third- and fourth-best records in the Western Conference.
McClendon, 56, was killed slamming his sport utility vehicle into a concrete bridge embankment in Oklahoma City shortly after 9 a.m. local time.
The crash occurred one day after he was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly conspiring to rig bids to buy oil and natural gas leases in northwest Oklahoma while he was still CEO of Chesapeake Energy Corp.
Oklahoma City built a 58-38 halftime lead with 16 points by Durant and a 24-8 run that included 3s by reserves Kyle Singler, Randy Foye and Dion Waiters.
Spurs 97, Pistons 81
In San Antonio, Kawhi Leonard scored 27 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 23 as the Spurs routed Detroit to clinch their 19th straight playoff berth.
San Antonio (51-9) won its 29th straight home game to open the season in its first game following a month-long road trip brought on by the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo.
Nuggets 117, Lakers 107
In Denver, D.J. Augustin had 22 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to lead six Nuggets players in double figures in a win over Los Angeles.
Rockets 100, Pelicans 95
In Houston, James Harden had 39 points, 11 boards and seven assists to help the Rockets overcome miserable shooting in a victory over New Orleans.
Raptors 104, Jazz 94
In Toronto, Kyle Lowry scored 32 points and DeMar DeRozan added 31 to help the Raptors beat Utah for a club-record 11th straight home win.
Magic 102, Bulls 89
In Orlando, Nikola Vucevic scored 24 points and rookie Mario Hezonja added a career-high 21 as the Magic trounced Chicago.
Wizards 104, T-Wolves 98
In Minneapolis, Bradley Beal scored 26 points and Alan Anderson added 18 to lead Washington to a fourth straight victory.
Celtics 116, Trail Blazers 93
In Boston, Isaiah Thomas had 30 points to lead the Celtics to their fourth straight win.
Avery Bradley added 17 points as Boston won its 12th straight at home.
Grizzlies 104, Kings 98
In Memphis, Mike Conley scored 24 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, to lead the Grizzlies to a victory over Sacramento.
Pacers 104, Bucks 99
In Milwaukee, Jordan Hill had 19 points and Indiana survived a last-minute rally to defeat the Bucks and end a three-game losing streak.
Hornets 119, 76ers 99
In Philadelphia, Kemba Walker scored 30 points and Cody Zeller had 15 to lead Charlotte to a victory over the Sixers.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5