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 attempts 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 that was played in the shadow of the controversy over racially charged comments that got owner Donald Sterling banned for life from all league 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 game one 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.”
The Western Conference semi-finals continue on Tuesday when top-seeded San Antonio host the fifth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers.
The Spurs, who led the league with 62 regular-season victories, needed seven games to get past eighth-seeded Dallas in the first round.
Portland beat Houston in six games, with Damian Lillard draining the game-winning three-pointer to seal game six and the series.
“It’s obviously one heck of a team,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, whose team split two regular-season match-ups with Portland. “We had trouble with them all year long. They have guys we haven’t guarded yet. They’re very talented, young, energetic.”
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