OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Los Angeles Clippers needed this.
A 125-117 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday carried restorative powers for a Clippers team that had been unsuccessful against the NBA's elite on the road.
The Thunder owned the league's best record -- until the Clippers' victory took their opponent down a peg to 43-14, percentage points behind Indiana (42-13).
The Clippers won with all five starters scoring in double figures. Jamal Crawford led the way with 36 points, but Matt Barnes (24 points, seven rebounds), Blake Griffin (20 points, seven rebounds, six assists), DeAndre Jordan (18 points, 12 rebounds) and Chris Paul (18 points, 12 assists, eight rebounds) all played significant roles.
"It's definitely a good win for us," said Paul, who played despite a sprained right thumb. "We were on the plane (Saturday) flying here and we were just talking about how we hadn't beat any good teams on the road, and this would be the perfect time to start."
The Clippers lost here earlier this season. They also have lost at San Antonio, Miami, Indiana and Portland, teams that rank among the best in the league.
The Clippers have won at Houston, but that was just one win against five road losses against the top teams.
Now the Clippers have a victory against a Thunder team that has lost just five games at home all season. They also have their first win since the All-Star game, after stumbling out of the break with losses to San Antonio and at Memphis.
"It was a very important win, especially having dropped our last two," Griffin said. "This win was big for us. We haven't really made a statement on the road. We've won some games, but we haven't won big games. So it was terrific for us."
To win this game, they had to survive their own struggles as well the Thunder's late charge.
The Clippers built a 15-point lead in the third quarter, but saw it cut to six points entering the fourth after Kevin Durant (42 points, 10 assists) drilled a long three-pointer just before the buzzer.
Griffin picked up his fifth foul with 9 minutes 32 seconds to play and was forced to take a seat on the bench with the Clippers up by four points.
They fell behind by three points late, before Paul and Griffin each made two free throws for a 116-115 Clippers lead.
Then two plays changed the course of the game.
Durant missed two free throws with 1:40 left that could have given the Thunder the lead.
On the Clippers' next possession, Crawford made a back-breaking three-pointer for a 119-115 lead.
"Our fight today was great," Griffin said. "I was proud of the way everybody stepped their game up."
Paul's right thumb was heavily taped. X-rays taken before the game were negative. Paul, who recently returned after missing 18 games because of a separated right shoulder, also had the shoulder wrapped, with a protective pad on top of it.
"I came into the area planning on not playing," Paul said. "But we find a way."
That's just what the Clippers did against the Thunder.
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