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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Thunder move closer to Bulls following rout


OKLAHOMA CITY — In a little over a week, the Oklahoma City Thunder have broken out of a midseason slump and made their case to be best team in the NBA.

News photo
Look out below: Thunder guard Russell Westbrook goes up for a dunk attempt during Oklahoma City's home win over the Bulls on Sunday. AP

Russell Westbrook scored 27 points, Kevin Durant added 26 points and 10 rebounds, and the Thunder used an electrifying third quarter to beat Chicago 92-78 on Sunday and move within a game of the Bulls for the NBA's best record.

One week earlier, the Thunder handed Miami its most lopsided defeat yet this season. Then they were even more dominating against the league-leading Bulls.

"Their numbers say what they are. There's not much they don't have," Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. "They play hard, they play unselfishly, they play smart, they're tough. Their defense is excellent."

In a pair of Sunday games on their home court, they've outclassed the two other teams in the thick of the race for the No. 1 overall seed in the NBA playoffs.

"We just picked up the intensity, I think. Playing hard. I can't stop saying it," Durant said. "Every possession, we've just been trying to scramble as hard as we can on the defensive end and move the ball on the offensive end. We've got to keep it up."

Oklahoma City beat the Heat 103-87 last Sunday.

The Bulls, who had not lost by more than 17 this season, only avoided their biggest loss of the season because the Thunder pulled their starters in the fourth quarter and reserve John Lucas III hit two 3-pointers in the final minute.

"It was disappointing, not that any game is more important than others. But obviously this was a game between the best team in the East and the best team in the West," Chicago center Joakim Noah said.

Celtics 91 Heat 72

In Boston, Rajon Rondo had a triple-double and the Celtics handed Miami its biggest loss of the season.

Rondo finished with 16 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds for his fifth triple-double of the season.

Lakers 120, Warriors 112

In Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant scored 40 points, Pau Gasol added 26 and the Lakers found themselves rallying for the second straight game against one of the West's worst teams.

Ramon Sessions added 23 points in his best game since being traded to the Lakers two weeks ago.

Nuggets 104, Magic 101

In Orlando, Ty Lawson scored 12 of his 25 points in the second half and Arron Afflalo added 22 points as Denver beat the short-handed Magic.

The Nuggets won back-to-back games for the first time since a four-game win streak the first week of March. Al Harrington added 18 points.

Raptors 99, Wizards 92

In Toronto, Andrea Bargnani scored 18 points, Jose Calderon and DeMar DeRozan each had 15 and the Raptors beat Washington at home for the fifth straight time.

Amir Johnson scored 10 points and James Johnson, Gary Forbes and Alan Anderson each had nine for Toronto, which never trailed.

Pacers 104, Rockets 102 (OT)

In Houston, Danny Granger scored 32 points, including two free throws with 15.7 seconds left in overtime, leading Indiana past the Rockets.

Suns 92, Hornets 75

In Phoenix, Jared Dudley scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half and the Suns climbed back to .500 and moved 1½ games behind eighth-place Houston in the Western Conference.

Trail Blazers 119, T-Wolves 106,

In Portland, LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points in his return after missing one game with a sore left elbow, leading the Trail Blazers past Minnesota.

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