Thunder clinch West's top seed

Updated: 2013-04-17 08:00

By Associated Press in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (China Daily)

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 Thunder clinch West's top seed

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Reggie Jackson dunks over Sacramento Kings center Cole Aldrich in the fourth quarter of their game in Oklahoma City on Monday. The Thunder won 104-95. Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press

Oklahoma City made to fight hard for win No 60 of season

The Oklahoma City Thunder couldn't coast to the No 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook teamed up for 50 points and needed to return in the fourth quarter to hold off a Sacramento charge, and the Thunder clinched the top seed in the West by beating the Sacramento Kings 104-95 on Monday night.

It was the 60th win for the franchise, which last accomplished the feat 15 years ago in Seattle. The team hasn't been the top seed in the West since 1996, when the SuperSonics went to the NBA Finals before losing to Michael Jordan's Bulls.

"We've never done it here before, so it's new to us," said Durant, who scored 29. "But it feels good. It shows our progression as a franchise each and every year."

Tyreke Evans, the Kings' second-leading scorer, did not return after grabbing at his troublesome left knee following a drive to the basket late in the first quarter. Without him, Sacramento fell hopelessly behind before mounting a flurry with the Thunder's stars on the bench.

Durant hit a 3-pointer and Westbrook set up Serge Ibaka for a two-handed slam during a string of 11 straight Thunder points midway through the third quarter that stretched the lead to 75-51.

Sacramento was able to cut the deficit to 11 early in the fourth quarter and force coach Scott Brooks to put Durant and Westbrook back in and close out the game.

"To get 60 wins is quite an accomplishment," Brooks said. "We've come a long way through the hard work our entire organization has put in."

Thunder clinch West's top seed

Westbrook didn't make it until the very end, drawing his second technical foul of the game with 2:28 left after spiking the basketball following Travis Outlaw's dunk that brought Sacramento within 100-88. The two technical fouls brought Westbrook's total to 15 for the season, one short of the number that would draw him an automatic one-game suspension.

Westbrook, who had 21 points, left the arena without speaking to reporters.

It appeared as though he - along with Durant and Ibaka - wouldn't return after Westbrook was called for a technical foul with 3:04 left in the third quarter for complaining to referee David Guthrie that he had been hit in the face with no foul called.

Westbrook continued complaining until Guthrie instructed reserve Daniel Orton to lead Westbrook to the bench with Oklahoma City leading 76-55.

"With the second-best team in the NBA, you can't get down early," said Isaiah Thomas, who led Sacramento with 16 points. "You can't get down 18 to 20 points. It's going to be a hell of a job to make a comeback. We fought, though, in that third and fourth quarter."

Outlaw scored 15 and Cole Aldrich had a double-double for the second straight game by tying his career best with 12 points and setting a career high with 13 rebounds.

(China Daily 04/17/2013 page23)