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    • Durant scores 42 to rally Thunder into second seed

      OKLAHOMA CITY — The Detroit Pistons had Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The Oklahoma City Thunder had Kevin Durant. Even on a career night for Caldwell-Pope, advantage Oklahoma City.

      Durant scored 42 points, including 21 in the fourth quarter, and the Thunder secured the No. 2 playoff seed in the Western Conference, rallying from 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Pistons 112-111 Wednesday night.

      Oklahoma City (59-23) had lost two straight to put itself in the must-win situation in the regular-season finale to earn the No. 2 seed.

      Durant rallied the Thunder while recording his 14th 40-point game of the season. He drove for the go-ahead dunk with 16.5 seconds left and won a tip over Greg Monroe with 1.8 seconds to go after a scramble for a loose ball resulted in a jump ball in Detroit’s end. Detroit’s Brandon Jennings could only manage a 30-foot heave at the buzzer that banged off the rim.

      “We just figured it out,” Durant said. “We got it done. It wasn’t the best game. We didn’t play well defensively. We didn’t shoot the ball well offensively. But there’s something about just getting it done, having that willpower, having that fight in you, no matter what. It was a tough game, we persevered and we got a good win.”

      The Thunder extended their winning streak over Detroit (29-53) to nine games, dating to December 2008.

      Caldwell-Pope scored 30 points for the Pistons (29-53), while Monroe had 22, Kyle Singler added 20 and Andre Drummond recorded his ninth straight double-double to end the season for Detroit, finishing with 22 points and 13 rebounds.

      “Our guys played their hearts out, competed from the opening tip,” Detroit coach John Loyer said. “I feel terrible for them because they deserved to win the game. They did anything we asked them to do tonight. Some guys stepped up and made some incredible shots and they put together 48 minutes of as good of basketball as we can play.”

      Russell Westbrook added 22 points for Oklahoma City, which will play Memphis in the first round of the playoffs. It was the ability of Westbrook, and especially Durant, to attack the rim in the fourth quarter that made the difference. Durant’s fourth quarter left Loyer almost speechless.

      “He’s one of the top one or two players in the world,” Loyer said. “That’s what he did.”

      For much of Wednesday, the Thunder looked and played like a tired team. Oklahoma City’s late-season defensive issues were on full display, as the Pistons shot 50.6 percent from the field and Caldwell-Pope joined other non-marquee players such as Jodie Meeks (Los Angeles Lakers), Gerald Green (Phoenix Suns) and Tyreke Evans (New Orleans Pelicans) in enjoying a career night against the Thunder.

      Oklahoma City trailed for most of the first half before taking a one-point lead twice in the third quarter. Detroit went on a 15-7 run and took an 87-79 lead on a basket by Jonas Jerebko with 5 seconds left in the quarter. Detroit led 94-84 with 10:13 left in the game after a basket by Monroe.

      But Durant’s offensive flurry cut into that gap and the Pistons didn’t score a basket in the final 3:17 or at all after Jennings hit two of three free throws with 2:07 left.

      On the Pistons’ final possession, the ball found its way to Jerebko, but he lost the handle as Thunder players slapped at the ball and officials ended up calling a tie ball.

      Caldwell-Pope hit four 3-pointers in the first half — making one over the outstretched arm of the 6-foot-10 Durant — and eclipsed his previous career high of 15 points by the 5:27 mark of the second quarter. His next basket put the Pistons ahead 48-37 with 4:52 left in the first half and hushed the crowd at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

      Durant, who was 2 of 8 from the field to that point, hit two free throws, then drained a 3-pointer to start a 17-7 run by Oklahoma City. Westbrook scored seven points in the final 2:41 and Durant drained an 18-foot jumper in the final second to pull the Thunder within 55-54.

      Notes

      Drummond set the Pistons’ record for highest field-goal percentage in a season, finishing at 62.3 percent. Dennis Rodman had held the previous team record of 59.5 percent, set during the 1988-89 season. … Kendrick Perkins was called for a technical foul by official Tony Brothers with 8:01 left in the third quarter when he protested after picking up his fifth foul. … The Thunder recorded their 130th straight regular-season sellout at Chesapeake Energy Arena, which seats 18,203 fans.

    • West matchups

      Which first round series will give us an epic showing in the West?  (USATSI)
      Which first round series will give us an epic showing in the West? (USATSI)

      More NBA: Power Rankings | Expert Picks | Latest news & notes

      Here’s a rundown of the Western Conference Playoff Matchups updating with the results Wednesday.

      Locked:

      San Antonio Spurs (1) vs. Dallas Mavericks (8)

      Analysis: Just for old time’s sake, we’re getting a good old-fashioned Tim Duncan-Dirk Nowitzki duel in the playoffs. The Spurs are 4-2 in playoff series against the Mavericks in the Dirk-Duncan era with the Spurs winning the most recent series in 2010. We’re getting two of the best perimeter attack teams in the NBA, who execute with incredible precision.

      The biggest key to this series will end up being how the Mavericks’ big men play. Dallas has trouble on the boards and they’re a pretty bad defensive unit in most creations they have with their lineups. Can anybody step up to right the interior ship for Dallas or will Duncan and Tiago Splitter have their way inside and in the series?

      Oklahoma City Thunder (2) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (7)

      Analysis: After the Grizzlies announced their presence with authority on the playoff scene in 2011, they were outlasted by the Thunder in the second round of the playoffs in a pretty epic series. Last season, we got a rematch but this one was sans Russell Westbrook, which allowed the Grizzlies to take advantage of focusing on Kevin Durant defensively and making the rest of the team beat them.

      This time, the Thunder are healthy and this is a different Durant than we’ve seen in the past. Who on the Grizzlies is capable of keeping him in check? Who will be able to score at a relatively similar clip to keep pace with this Thunder team? Which role players will step up and provide some outside shooting? Grizzlies need to answer these questions to advance past OKC again.

      Los Angeles Clippers (3) vs. Golden State Warriors (6)

      Analysis: A few days ago, this looked like a much better matchup than what we’re seeing now, thanks to the Andrew Bogut rib injury. This Warriors team is going to rely heavily on Jermaine O’Neal and probably David Lee at the five. This means they’re going to have to go heavy defense on the perimeter with a lineup consisting of Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, which could actually help open things up offensively.

      If the Warriors go small, we’ll get a similar attack to what they showed against the Denver Nuggets last season. However, this Clippers team has a lot more firepower than what the Nuggets could provide. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are enough to handle with Bogut protecting your back on defense. Without that anchor, can they stop enough penetration on the perimeter to neutralize the paint advantage for the Clippers?

      Houston Rockets (4) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (5)

      Analysis: If you like 3-point shooting, this is the series for you. The Rockets and Blazers are one and three, respectively, in 3-point attempts per game and both try to bombard you with outside attempts. The Rockets shooting the most threes in the NBA but they make 35.6 percent of them, which is good for 17th in the NBA. The Blazers’ attempts are much more efficient, making the league’s ninth best percentage at 37.2 percent.

      The key for both teams will be who can get the stops when they’re needed the most. The Rockets have the fourth best defense in clutch situations, but they’ll probably need a healthy or relatively healthy Patrick Beverley to keep that going while bothering Damian Lillard and his incredible clutch scoring. The Blazers are 19th in clutch defense and will need to find a way to get big stops.

      Eastern Conference matchups here.

    • Wizards close out Celtics, leap Nets to clinch No. 5 seed

      BOSTON — Bradley Beal stood at his locker near the middle of a noisy Washington locker room and expressed a thought that Wizards’ players haven’t felt for a few years.

      “I was sitting here after the game and talking to Glen [Rice] saying, `It’s a great feeling knowing you’re going to keep playing,’” Beal said after scoring 27 points to help the Wizards grab the Eastern Conference’s No. 5 seed with a 118-102 win over Boston on Wednesday night.

      “You don’t have to go home now and not know what you’re doing,” he said. “It’s a great thing for us to be in the situation we’re in. For me being my second year, a lot of guys haven’t been through it.”

      The Wizards, who closed the regular season by winning seven of their last 10 games, will be facing Chicago in their first playoff appearance since 2008.

      “I just thought the way we ended it, that’s what we talked about,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “We didn’t want to worry about who’s chasing who.”

      The Wizards jumped over Brooklyn and into fifth place after the Nets lost in Cleveland.

      Trevor Booker scored 20 points, Marcin Gortat had 15 with 10 rebounds, and John Wall 15 points for Washington, which finished the regular season 44-38. It’s the most wins for the franchise since 45 in 2004-05.

      “I thought we had a pretty good season,” Washington forward Trevor Ariza said. “We had our ups and we had downs, but for the most part it’s definitely been a step in the right direction.”

      Boston sat injured guards Rajon Rondo and Jerryd Bayless, and injured forwards Kris Humphries and Jared Sullinger, finishing with a 25-57 record. It was the club’s worst since going 24-58 in 2006-07, the year before acquiring Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and winning its 17th NBA title.

      “I’m not concerned that we aren’t going to strive to get better,” Boston first-year coach Brad Stevens said. “I think we will work. I think their work ethics are good, and I think their coach-ability is pretty good.”

      One player that may be wondering if he’ll be back is Rondo.

      When asked if he wants to be with the club next season, he said: “Next question.”

      The point guard will be in the final year of his contract.

      Rookie Kelly Olynyk led Boston with 24 points and seven boards. Jeff Green scored 20 points and Avery Bradley 18.

      The Celtics closed the season, filled with fans talking a lot of “tanking” and “pingpong balls,” by losing 11 of their last 13.

      Stevens wants his players that return to come ready to fight for more playing time next season.

      “So, there’s a couple of different ways to look at it: Are you going to get better in your role, or are you going to expand your role?” he said. “What I mean by that is: Are you going to get better at what you do well, or are you going to get better at some other things that make you, give you the chance instead of being the eighth guy to be the fifth? Or instead of being the fifth to be the third?”

      Washington, which never trailed, led by 12 at halftime before the Celtics opened the third with a 14-6 run, closing it to 74-70 on Brandon Bass’ jumper from the left wing.

      But — behind Gortat’s eight points — the Wizards answered by scoring 13 of the next 16 to move ahead 87-73.

      Washington led by 16 entering the final quarter and coasted to the win.

      Behind Wall scoring their initial six points, the Wizards had opened a double-digit lead (23-11) on Gortat’s jumper midway into the opening quarter. They shot 66.7 percent (18 of 27) and led 38-24 at the break.

      Both teams had a hot shooting second quarter, with neither below 55 percent as the Wizards’ lead ranged between five and 15 points en route to a 68-56 halftime edge.

      Notes

      Wall started all 82 regular season games after missing the start of last season with a left knee injury. “Coming off a tough year, last year injury-wise, to be able to play all 82 games is a heck of an accomplishment,” Wittman said before the game. “You look at all the really good players that have played the game and they play all 82.” … Bass won the team’s Red Auerbach Award that’s given to the player or coach who best exemplifies the spirit of what it means to be a Celtic through performance on and off the court. … Sullinger spoke to the crowd from midcourt before the game, saying: “We want to thank you for your endless support and passion throughout the whole season. Hopefully we’ll come back better next year.”

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