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Crawford's Big Day Leads Clippers Past Thunder

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

The return of Russell Westbrook to the Oklahoma City lineup was supposed to take the Thunder back up to the level it was playing with him earlier in the season. Two straight losses after the All-Star Break probably isn't what anyone had in mind.

Jamal Crawford had 36 points, including a crucial jumper with 40 seconds left to lead the Los Angeles Clippers to a 125-117 win over the Thunder Sunday afternoon at The Peake.

The loss gave the Thunder back-to-back home losses for just the second time this season.

Westbrook's return wasn't expected to be without growing pains and he and OKC still have a long way to go—particularly Westbrook, who was 3-of-13 from the field for 13 points with five rebounds and six assists. Westbrook took—and missed—a deep, desperation 3-pointer with 35 seconds left after Crawford's jump shot had put the Clippers up four. While that quick trigger pretty much ended all hope of an OKC comeback, it was far down the list of reasons the Thunder lost the game.

First, OKC allowed the Clippers to shoot 52 percent for the game, including 13-of-30 from 3-point range. Crawford and the surprising Matt Barnes combined to go 11-of-18 from deep by themselves. Barnes finished with 24 points, one off his season-high.

Second, the Thunder gave up 34 fastbreak points to the Clippers, including an incredible 27 points in the first half alone. Those easy transition opportunities—which mostly ended in thunderous alley-oops from DeAndre Jordan (18 points, 12 rebounds)—helped the Clippers shoot 66 percent in the first half and lead at the break, 72-66.

The Oklahoma City offense was anything but spectacular; inconsistent would be a better word for it. A nearly seven-minute run with just a single field goal in the third quarter left the Thunder down 95-80 with 2:14 remaining after a Darren Collison layup. Derek Fisher and Kevin Durant took over at that point, with Fisher hitting three 3-pointers in just over two minutes of game time to lead an 18-4 run to trim the Clippers' lead to one. Fisher finished with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range.

The Thunder tied the game on several occasions in the fourth quarter, but didn't take a lead until Durant hit a 3-pointer with 2:43 left to give OKC a 115-112 lead. It was short-lived, however, as four LA free throws over the next minute gave the Clippers the lead for good. After Durant's 3-pointer, the Thunder went 1-of-7 from the field and Durant uncharacteristically missed a pair of free throws that would've given OKC the lead again.

The loss spoiled another sensational performance from Durant, who had 42 points and 10 assists, the first time in his career he had 35 or more points and 10 assists. As good as Durant was, he didn't get a lot of help outside of Fisher's 3-point barrage and Westbrook's five points in the fourth quarter.

Serge Ibaka had 20 points, but didn't score after the 7-minute mark of the third quarter. Jeremy Lamb had four points and only took two shots. Thabo Sefolosha had 10 points but scored eight of those in the first quarter. Steven Adams, who started in place of Kendrick Perkins, scored a single point and grabbed six rebounds. Worst of all was Reggie Jackson, who suffered through a 3-of-12 shooting performance, four turnovers and poor defense.

Trying to reintegrate Westbrook into the lineup while trying to beat two of the best teams in the NBA was a tall order, but things get a bit easier for the Thunder in the next week. Four more home games await, three of those against Eastern conference foes Cleveland, Charlotte and Philadelphia. OKC faces Memphis on Friday in the fourth game.

It's never encouraging to lose games, but it's impossible to expect perfection right away after a player returns from missing nearly 30 games. The Thunder still have a 2.5 game lead on San Antonio for the top spot in the West, so there's no need to panic with 25 games to go in the regular season. However, that's not to say there shouldn't be a sense of urgency as the Thunder pushes toward the playoffs.

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