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November 4, 2010

OKC beats Portland after losing to Clippers

— LOS ANGELES  — When Eric Bledsoe headed to the bench in the final minute, the Los Angeles Clippers’ fans rose to their feet for an ovation. A few seconds later, they did the same for fellow rookie Blake Griffin.

Sure, it’s early November. But given the Clippers’ miserable past and their iffy present, just allow their fans to enjoy this glimpse of their tantalizing future.

Eric Gordon scored 27 points, Bledsoe added 17 points and eight assists in his second career start, and the Clippers held Kevin Durant to a horrific shooting night in their first victory of the season, 107-92 over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.

Griffin had 18 points and nine rebounds for the Clippers, who rebounded from their 0-4 start with an impressive win over the Thunder and Durant, last season’s NBA scoring champion. Durant scored 16 points but missed 10 3-point attempts while going 6 for 24.

After complementing each other so well on the court, the Clippers’ rookies repeatedly complimented each other in the locker room.

“It’s great that we got this one,” said Griffin, a former Oklahoma Sooner standout. “It’s good for our confidence, but we know it doesn’t get any easier. We did some good things to build on tonight, though. Eric (Bledsoe) was our MVP. The way he played, that’s great.”

Bledsoe held his own with Russell Westbrook while filling in for Baron Davis, who has a sore left knee. The Kentucky product made seven of his first nine shots, ran the Clippers’ uptempo offense impressively and even played respectable defense.

The Thunder actually drafted Bledsoe with the 18th pick on draft night in June, trading him to the Clippers later in the night for a future protected first-round pick.

“I just came out to play hard, and if I play hard, I guess that’s what I can do,” Bledsoe said. “I’m just trying to hold it down until Baron gets back, just trying to get better. Hopefully this will start things going in our favor.”

Davis has a cyst that causes swelling behind his left knee, forcing him out of the Clippers’ last two games. Coach Vinny Del Negro isn’t sure when his starting point guard, who showed up to training camp out of shape, will return.

And after Bledsoe’s last two performances, Davis will have competition for minutes when he gets healthy.

“He’s young, but you can see his speed, his athleticism, his quickness out there,” Del Negro said. “He’s having fun right now, and he should. I know how difficult it is to be in his position.”

Jeff Green had 19 points and nine rebounds for the Thunder, who lost their second straight game in embarrassing fashion following a 21-point home loss to Utah. Westbrook had 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting and six assists, but the Thunder fell behind by 19 points in the first half and 21 in the third quarter.

“I’m the leader of this team,” Durant said. “Everybody follows me, so (when) I didn’t show up, the team didn’t show up. ... No, it’s not too early (to worry). We’ve got to figure this out. Two games in a row, teams just did whatever they want on us. The offense didn’t look too good. It’s frustrating to watch as a player.”

Gordon hit three of the Clippers’ eight 3-pointers, and Ryan Gomes scored 12 points in Los Angeles’ balanced offensive effort while playing solid defense on Durant, who still missed plenty of open looks while going 2 for 9 in both the first and third quarters.

“Kevin has not shot the ball well, but I have a lot of confidence in him because I’ve seen it so many times where he bounces back,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “He didn’t have the game tonight that he wanted, that we wanted out of him, but I still believe in him. I know it’s going to turn for him.”

The Clippers got off to a poor start with a brutal early season schedule that included three home games in the last four days. Los Angeles is headed out on a difficult four-game road trip starting in Denver on Friday night.

But they made a move starting late in the first quarter, going on a 25-6 run led by their guards. Oklahoma City got back in it with a 12-0 run led by Green, who scored 13 points in the second quarter to keep the Thunder’s halftime deficit at 53-43.

Griffin used his stunning athleticism to produce yet another highlight-reel dunk in the third quarter, driving from the baseline for a one-handed jam over Green and Nenad Krstic.

Griffin and fellow Clippers rookie Willie Warren attended Oklahoma.

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