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Monday, April 5, 2010

Thunder earn spot in NBA postseason

DALLAS (AP) The Oklahoma City Thunder have transformed from doormat to dangerous playoff team.

News photo
Next big thing: Thunder forward Kevin Durant drives around Mavericks forward Caron Butler during their game on Saturday in Dallas. The Thunder won 121-116 to clinch a spot in the playoffs. AP PHOTO

Kevin Durant scored 23 points, Jeff Green added 22 and the Thunder clinched a playoff spot with a 121-116 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night.

Russell Westbrook and Nick Collison added 17 points each to help the Thunder end a nine-game road losing streak against the Mavericks dating to when the team was based in Seattle.

Oklahoma City missed the playoffs last season after relocating from Seattle. The Thunder are the NBA's most improved team this season, more than doubling their 23 victories in 2008-09.

"It's a great feeling, but I've been impressed with our guys' work ethic all year long and I know that's not going to change," coach Scott Brooks said.

The Thunder's young players didn't do any postgame celebrating. Their explanation? They have a home game Sunday against Minnesota, which has the worst record in the Western Conference.

"It's cool to celebrate after the game but we've got a quick turnaround . . . so we've got to come out there and produce," Durant said. "Maybe on our day off we'll celebrate."

Durant led the way on both ends of the floor, matching a career high with five steals and chipping in five rebounds and five assists.

Dirk Nowitzki had 30 points and 13 rebounds for Dallas, and Jason Kidd added 24 points in the matchup of possible playoff opponents.

"They play hard," said Dallas' Jason Terry, who went 2-for-10 from the field, 0-for-6 from 3-point range, and finished with four points. "We might see them again in the playoffs. Who knows?"

The Mavericks are 5-6 since ending a season-best 13-game winning streak, a slump that has been rooted on the defensive end.

"When we won 13 in a row, the defense was much better," Mavericks center Brendan Haywood said. "We have to improve our intensity on defense."

Bucks 107, Suns 98

In Milwaukee, Brandon Jennings scored 23 points and the Bucks beat Phoenix to end the Suns' winning streak at 10 games.

Now Milwaukee must wait to see if it will have to face life without Andrew Bogut after the standout center sustained an elbow injury.

Bogut, the Bucks' leading scorer and rebounder, was taken to the hospital for tests after hurting his right elbow during a dunk in the second quarter. Bogut hung on the rim then crashed to the floor, awkwardly twisting his arm.

Nuggets 98, Clippers 90

In Denver, Carmelo Anthony scored 24 points and the Nuggets overcame a 21-point deficit to beat Los Angeles.

Nene added 18 points, and Chauncey Billups and Johan Petro had 14 points apiece in helping Denver win its second in a row since a 1-5 stretch.

Bulls 96, Bobcats 88

In Chicago, Derrick Rose scored 26 points, Kirk Hinrich added 24 and the Bulls beat Charlotte to boost their playoff hopes.

Nets 115, Hornets 87

In East Rutherford, N.J., rookie Terrence Williams had 14 points and a career-high 14 assists to lead New Jersey to its biggest win of the season.

Heat 97, Timberwolves 84

In Minneapolis, Dwyane Wade scored 39 points, Quentin Richardson added 14 and Miami beat Minnesota for its eighth straight victory.

Raptors 128, Sixers 123 (OT)

In Philadelphia, Chris Bosh led Toronto with 28 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, and Sonny Weems added 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting.

Hawks 91, Pistons 85

In Atlanta, Jamal Crawford scored 29 points, Al Horford added 20 points and 14 rebounds in the Hawks' 10th straight home victory.

Trail Blazers 98, Kings 87

In Sacramento, Brandon Roy scored 24 points, Andre Miller added 23 as Portland beat the Kings.

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