PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Chris Paul joked that the Trail Blazers' near-comeback against the Clippers made for good television.
"You always gotta make it interesting," he said with a smile.
But only to a point.
The Clippers built a 25-point lead in the first half then held off a second-half rally by the Blazers for a 103-90 victory on Thursday night. Jamal Crawford scored 25 points off the bench while Paul and DeAndre Jordan had 21 apiece.
"We all knew what we were supposed to do. We came out a little flat defensively in the third quarter, so we all got on each other," Jordan said. "We knew in the fourth quarter we had to come out and play."
Nicolas Batum had 23 points and nine rebounds for the Blazers, who ultimately couldn't catch up.
Rookie Damian Lillard's pull-up jumper and Batum's 3-pointer helped Portland trim Los Angeles' lead to 75-69 late in the third quarter. Batum's driving layup at the buzzer made it 77-71 heading to the final period.
Portland closed to 86-82 on Meyers Leonard's alley-oop dunk from Batum, but the rally fizzled and Paul sent fans streaming for the doors when his jumper with 2:51 left extended the lead to 98-85.
"We can't wait until we're down 20 points to say, 'Man, we've got to play now,'" said Batum, who had success in the second half when he was put on Paul.
Clippers star Blake Griffin had 10 rebounds and seven points while playing with a sleeve covering his right arm for the third straight game because of fluid in his elbow.
"I wouldn't really say it's affecting my play. Once you're out there it's just a matter of playing," Griffin said. "It's gotten better each day so a few days off will be good for it but it's not something I'm worried about."
Los Angeles improved to 4-2 in its first game away from the Staples Center. They had a road win over the rival Lakers last Friday.
The victory over Portland came on the second night of back-to-back games. The Clippers handed San Antonio its first loss with a 106-84 victory on Wednesday night.
The Blazers (2-3) were coming off a 1-2 road trip that concluded with a 114-91 loss at Dallas on Monday.
Lillard said the fact that the Blazers came back from such a deficit was encouraging.
"We know when we play like that, with a lot of energy and when we're flying around, playing hard and moving the ball, we know that we can play with one of the best teams in the league," he said. "At the same time, we can't put ourselves in that hole, because we're not that level of team to be able to fight back every time."
Willie Green hit a 3-pointer to give the Clippers a 24-16 lead in the first quarter, and it quickly got ugly.
The Clippers grabbed a 43-28 lead on Matt Barnes' fast-break basket. Portland struggled offensively and Los Angeles led 53-30 after a 22-2 run — much of it with Griffin taking a break on the bench.
Luke Babbitt hit a 3-pointer for the Blazers at the halftime buzzer, but it didn't make much of a difference and the Clippers led 60-39 at the break.
Portland's reserves, averaging an NBA-low 12.8 points per game, had just eight points in the first half. Their Clippers counterparts scored 25.
The Blazers outscored the Clippers 32-17 in the third quarter, shooting 71 percent for the floor. Batum led the way with 12 points in the quarter.
For the game, Los Angeles shot 53 percent and Portland shot just under 43 percent.
"The first half skewed the whole thing," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "The shooting percentages in the first half were very disparate. The third quarter obviously made up for a lot of that in the final tally, but on the whole, we didn't offer much resistance in the first half."
Stotts said the before the game that he anticipating an interesting matchup between perennial All-Star Paul and rookie Lillard, the "old guard and the new guard."
Lillard, quickly building a reputation for his poise in his first year, finished with 16 points. He said Paul spoke to him at times during the game, but it wasn't trash talk: Paul complimented him.
"He can play," Paul said of Lillard after the game. "Portland better hold on to him because they definitely have a prized possession for the future."
NOTES: The Trail Blazers collected donations for the Red Cross to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy. Fans donated over $10,500, while Wells Fargo and the Paul G. Allen foundation each pledged $10,000 for a total of $30,500. ... The Clippers have won seven of their 32 games in Portland. ... The Clippers have won three straight against Portland.
Durant helps Thunder edge Bulls
CHICAGO (AP) — Oklahoma City went to Kevin Durant in the fourth quarter. Chicago was missing its best closer, so all the Bulls had to pitch in. Durant and Co. were just too much to overcome.
The NBA scoring champion had 10 of his 24 points in the final period and the Thunder beat the Bulls 97-91 on Thursday night.
"It was one of those games you have to grind out," Durant said. "We've been through so many. We know what it takes."
Durant iced the game with an off-balance jumper off one foot with 35.1 seconds to play. He added another jumper a few seconds later and then finished off his game-ending spree with a couple of free throws.
Oklahoma City outscored Chicago 31-19 in the fourth quarter, overcoming a six-point deficit.
"That's winning time, fourth quarter," Durant said. "In the fourth quarter we really turned it up a lot. But if you want to be a really good team you've got to do that from the beginning of the game."
Serge Ibaka scored 15 of his 21 points in the first half, and had a team-high nine rebounds for the Thunder, who beat the Bulls for the third time in their last four games at Chicago. Russell Westbrook finished with 16 points and 12 assists.
"I told (Durant) be aggressive, just be aggressive, especially in the fourth quarter," Westbrook said. "It was his time. Everybody knows that's his time. He took his time and got the shots he needed."
Luol Deng led the Bulls with 27 points, and Richard Hamilton added 20 points and eight rebounds. Joakim Noah had nine points, 13 rebounds and a team-high six assists.
"Overall, I thought we played hard but we turned the ball over a lot," Noah said. "(Durant) hit some really tough shots."
Hamilton made a tying jumper with 2:52 to play, but then Durant took over, making a floater from the top of the key over Deng to keep the Bulls at bay.
"I was on him," Deng said. "He's 6-9 (6-foot-9). A great player. Really tough shot."
While Durant came up with some clutch baskets at one end, the Bulls had no one to answer with star point guard Derrick Rose sidelined with a knee injury that will keep him out of action into the new year.
"Derrick Rose is an unbelievable player, don't get me wrong. He is Chicago," Durant said. "But those guys are great complements to him. Once one of your best players is out, guys got to step up and that's what they've been doing ever since he's been out."
The teams combined for 43 turnovers. The 21 miscues by the Bulls were a hot topic after the game.
"We have to sustain our defense and take care of the ball," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We did not sustain our effort and we need to have low turnovers."
Durant was passive for much of the game and didn't attempt a free throw until the closing seconds. He has had just one game without a free-throw attempt since the start of the 2010-11 season.
"I like Kevin to be a playmaker," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "That is what separates great players from good ones. The 19 shots like tonight are where I like him to be."
The Thunder put together a 7-0 to grab the lead with 8:34 to play. Nick Collison capped the surge with a layup off a pass from Eric Maynor.
Deng snapped the run with his third 3-pointer of the game. Deng entered the contest 1 for 11 from behind the arc. Chicago ranked last in the league in 3-point makes, attempts and percentage, but hit a season-high five 3s in the game.
"Lu provides whatever you need," Thibodeau said. "If you need him to score more, he can do that."
The Thunder responded a six-point run, taking a five-point lead after Ibaka blocked a Deng shot from behind, igniting a fast break and Thabo Sefolosha's layup.
"They are hard to guard," Thibodeau said. "They made some tough plays and closed it out."
Kirk Hinrich scored seven points to lead a third-quarter charge for the Bulls, hitting his second 3-pointer of the game and reaching double figures in scoring for the first time this season. Chicago led 72-66 entering the final period.
The Bulls jumped to an early eight-point lead, but the Thunder closed the opening period with a 9-2 run to tie the game. Durant scored the last six points of the quarter on two dunks and a jump shot.
Ibaka scored 11 points on 5-for-9 shooting in the opening quarter and increased that to 15 by the half, when the Thunder led 48-47.
Jimmy Butler helped Chicago stay close the second quarter, putting up six points, three rebounds and three assists in the period, while playing solid defense on fellow reserve Kevin Martin, who scored 15 points for the Thunder.
Hinrich finished with 12 points.
NOTES: It was a season-high point total for Durant, who entered averaging 20.8 points after scoring a league-best 28.0 points per game last season. Durant had scored at least 25 points in his last seven games against Chicago, but his high in Oklahoma City's first four games was just 23. . The Bulls entered second in the league in defensive points allowed per possession. Chicago hadn't allowed a team to score more than 93 points in any of its first four games. . The teams combined to hit 36 of 39 free throws. It was just the fifth time both the Bulls and their opponent shot at least 88.9 percent from the line since the 1996-97 season.
-- Bradford Doolittle
Other NBA News
'Hockey assists' all the rage with the Heat
MIAMI (AP) — There's nary a pair of skates visible in the Miami Heat locker room, no bucket of pucks in the practice facility and no Zamboni following the team around, either.
Still, there's at least one hockey principle that's in the mind of the reigning NBA champions so far this season.
With emphasis on ball movement, the Heat are currently into what's known as "hockey assists" — essentially, the pass that sets up the pass that sets up the score. In hockey, it's typical for two players to be credited with having passes to set up a goal, and while it's hardly an NBA statistic, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is working it into his team's repertoire as well.
"If anything, it's a compliment to the game of hockey," Heat center Joel Anthony said. "We're recognizing the different types of ways they reward players for making the extra pass. Hockey acknowledges it a lot more. There's no stat for it in basketball but we still acknowledge that. Spo recognizes that and wants to make sure we know it's extremely important."
Anthony would seem to be the resident Miami expert in this field.
After all, he's the Heat player who hails from Canada — hockey's epicenter.
"That extra pass, it means a lot for us," Anthony said.
The Heat begin a six-games-in-nine-days trip in Atlanta on Friday night, a game followed by contests at Memphis, Houston, the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver and Phoenix. Miami doesn't play at home again until Nov. 21.
Miami's ball movement this season is beyond statistically impressive. In their four wins so far, the Heat have 109 assists against only 43 turnovers. Even with their lone loss taken into account, the Heat assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.98-to-1 leads the NBA entering Thursday's games.
"Our team assist-to-turnover ratio is important," Spoelstra said.
As a team, Miami reached the 25-assist mark only 12 times in 66 regular-season games last season; this year, the Heat have gotten there four times in five games.
"It's all about getting somebody the better shot," Wade said.
Take Wednesday's 103-73 win over Brooklyn as an example. LeBron James finished the game with 20 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in only 30 minutes, getting the fourth quarter off. A triple-double was easily within reach, though with the game in hand, there was no need for the NBA's MVP to play in the final period.
So, no triple-double. That is, unless one takes into account the manner Spoelstra and the Heat chart certain things.
"He could have had more assists if he was thinking ego during the course of the game, if he was hunting down his own pass," Spoelstra said. "But again, I think he probably had three or four or five hockey assists, where he knew that it was going to be a rotation, that the next guy would be open. That's how fast his mind is going, thinking of the play after the play after the play. But that's the point."
While it might be one of the go-to terms for the Heat these days, it's not a new concept.
James said he began thinking about the parallel between hockey assists and smart basketball passing in high school. Chris Bosh credits Paul Hewitt — his college coach at Georgia Tech — with introducing him to the concept. Dwyane Wade had similar sentiments, saying it was a term that Tom Crean used when he was in college at Marquette.
"Making the pass to the guy who makes the pass is just as valuable," Bosh said. "We're unselfish. We don't care. From night to night, (statistics) will be different. From time to time, we're going to have guys with a hot hand. But as long as we're playing together and it's spread out, we're playing well."
The first Miami basket of the game on Wednesday night had four players in key roles.
Bosh got a steal, threw the ball to Mario Chalmers, who found Wade, who tossed a perfect lob to James for a dunk. The entire play took five seconds — one steal, three passes, one dribble, one dunk. And in the "hockey assist" formula, Chalmers' nifty one-handed flick to Wade would have gotten as much credit for the score as the lob did, since it took defenders away from James' sprint down the left side to the rim.
"I'm all-in," Chalmers said. "I like it, since I'm usually the one that gets the hockey assist. As long as we're winning, everybody's happy."
-- Tim Reynolds
Warriors' Bogut out 7-10 days to rest ankle
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut will be sidelined the next seven to 10 days to rest and strengthen his surgically repaired left ankle.
The announcement Thursday is the kind of setback Bogut and the Warriors were hoping to avoid this season. The 7-footer from Australia was held scoreless while playing 17 minutes in Golden State's 106-96 win against Cleveland on Wednesday night. He had five assists and three rebounds.
Bogut sat out all of the preseason. He has moved slowly and showed little lift while playing four of the first five regular-season games. The 2005 No. 1 overall pick fractured his ankle Jan. 25 with Milwaukee and missed the rest of the season after being traded to Golden State for guard Monta Ellis, among others.
Kings F Robinson suspended by NBA
NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA has suspended Sacramento Kings forward Thomas Robinson for two games for elbowing Detroit's Jonas Jerebko in the neck.
The play occurred with 10 minutes left in Sacramento's 105-103 win on Wednesday night. Robinson, the fifth overall pick in this year's draft out of Kansas, was immediately ejected.
Robinson will miss the Kings' games against San Antonio on Friday and the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
The league announced the suspension Thursday.
NBA players, teams plan Veterans Day activities
NEW YORK (AP) — NBA players and teams will spend the weekend honoring those in different uniforms.
The league has a number of events planned to celebrate Veterans Day in arenas and surrounding communities in a joint effort with the Department of Defense.
As part of "NBA Cares Hoops for Troops," 10 teams will host military appreciation nights at their home games from Friday through Monday. Other programs include visits to medical centers, and meals with service members.
Col. Phil Waite, director of community and public outreach for the Department of Defense, said in a statement Thursday that the military is "humbled" and "grateful" for the NBA's continuing efforts. The U.S. men's basketball team held an open practice for military personnel and their families in July before leaving for the Olympics.
|All Times EST|
Phoenix 117, Charlotte 110
Boston 100, Washington 94, OT
Atlanta 89, Indiana 86
Miami 103, Brooklyn 73
Denver 93, Houston 87
Minnesota 90, Orlando 75
Philadelphia 77, New Orleans 62
Memphis 108, Milwaukee 90
Dallas 109, Toronto 104
Utah 95, L.A. Lakers 86
Sacramento 105, Detroit 103
Golden State 106, Cleveland 96
L.A. Clippers 106, San Antonio 84
Oklahoma City 97, Chicago 91
L.A. Clippers 103, Portland 90
Brooklyn at Orlando, 7 p.m.
Milwaukee at Washington, 7 p.m.
Philadelphia at Boston, 7:30 p.m.
Miami at Atlanta, 7:30 p.m.
Dallas at New York, 7:30 p.m.
Indiana at Minnesota, 8 p.m.
Houston at Memphis, 8 p.m.
Charlotte at New Orleans, 8 p.m.
Detroit at Oklahoma City, 8 p.m.
Cleveland at Phoenix, 9 p.m.
San Antonio at Sacramento, 10 p.m.
Golden State at L.A. Lakers, 10:30 p.m.
Utah at Denver, 10:30 p.m.
Philadelphia at Toronto, 7 p.m.
Washington at Indiana, 7 p.m.
Dallas at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.
Minnesota at Chicago, 8 p.m.
Detroit at Houston, 8 p.m.
Boston at Milwaukee, 8:30 p.m.
Phoenix at Utah, 9 p.m.
San Antonio at Portland, 10 p.m.
Denver at Golden State, 10:30 p.m.