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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Durant fires Thunder to first playoff victory

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Scuffling through a rough shooting night, Kevin Durant wanted to do anything he could to keep the Oklahoma City Thunder from falling hopelessly behind the Los Angeles Lakers.

News photo
Another record: Kobe Bryant of the Lakers shoots over Oklahoma City's James Harden during Game 3 on Thursday night. The Thunder beat Los Angeles 101-96. AP PHOTO

So, why not take on the task of defending Kobe Bryant?

Durant had 29 points and 19 rebounds, and snapped out of a shooting funk while guarding Bryant to lead the decisive run, lifting the Thunder to a 101-96 victory in Game 3 on Thursday night in the first playoff game in Oklahoma City.

"Scoring's a big part of my game. It kind of overshadows the other parts of my game," said Durant, who at 21 became the youngest player to lead the NBA in scoring. "But if I continue to play hard on both ends, it's going to come around for me. I was able to get free and make a couple shots, and that's what got us going."

Durant and Russell Westbrook scored 22 of the final 23 for the Thunder, including every point during a 10-2 surge that put Oklahoma City ahead to stay.

The top-seeded Lakers got back within 98-96 on Bryant's driving layup with 13.5 seconds left, but the Thunder closed it out from the foul line to pull within 2-1 in the seven-game series.

Game 4 is Saturday night in Oklahoma City.

Durant celebrated by thumping his chest and popping his jersey to show off the "Thunder" printed on the front, while Westbrook, who scored 27 points, flapped his arms to egg on the screaming crowd.

"It feels good. Playing against the reigning champs makes it even better. But we have a long ways to go," said Durant, who missed his first seven shots and 15 of his first 19. "It does feel good to get our first win. It feels even better to bring the first win in the playoffs here to Oklahoma City. That's what I'm most excited about."

Bryant scored 24 points to surpass Jerry West's franchise record (4,457) for playoff scoring, and Pau Gasol had 17 points and 15 rebounds for Los Angeles.

Bulls 108, Cavaliers 106

In Chicago, the hosts saw their 21-point lead whittled to one, but hung on to beat Cleveland and cut the Cavs' series lead to 2-1.

Derrick Rose scored 31 points and Kirk Hinrich added 27 for the Bulls.

Cleveland's LeBron James scored 13 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter but also committed some late turnovers.

Suns 108, Blazers 89

In Portland, Jason Richardson scored a playoff career-high 42 points as Phoenix dominated the Blazers from the start to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round series.

Amare Stoudemire had 20 points for the Suns, while Steve Nash finished with 13 points and 10 assists.

Brooks named MIP

HOUSTON (AP) Houston Rockets point guard Aaron Brooks was named the NBA's Most Improved Player on Thursday.

The 183-cm Brooks set career highs in points (19.6 per game), assists (5.3) and rebounds (2.6). His scoring average went up 8.4 points from 2008-09, the highest increase of any qualifying player.

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