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Clippers take another step to playoffs

LOS ANGELES -- Chris Paul's clutch play in the fourth quarter is a big reason why the Los Angeles Clippers are closing in on a rare playoff berth.

Paul scored 12 of his 28 points in the final period and added 13 assists in a 112-104 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday that brought the Clippers within a game of the Lakers for the Pacific Division lead.

The Clippers have won 11 of 13, inching closer to their first playoff appearance since the 2005-06 season.

"It's all about locking up a playoff spot. You got to get in," Paul said. "Anything can happen when you get to the playoffs. The sky's the limit. When we play the way we're capable of playing, we've already beaten some of the best teams in the league."

Blake Griffin added 20 points, DeAndre Jordan 18 and Mo Williams 14 in the Clippers' third straight win. They also are chasing the idle Lakers for the third seed in the Western Conference with six games remaining.

"We know what our goal is and it's not to be ahead of the Lakers once the playoffs start," Jordan said.

The Clippers' 36 wins are their most since they won 40 games in 2006-07. They next play West-leading Oklahoma City on Monday with a chance to win that season series.

"We would love to win the division," Paul said. "In order to do that, we would need to win out."


Around the league

*Kevin Durant scored 43 points and Russell Westbrook had 35 and eight assists to keep the Oklahoma City Thunder atop the Western Conference with a 115-110 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Durant scored 16 in the final seven minutes for the Thunder (44-16), who started the day one game ahead of the Spurs for the top seed in the West.

*Avery Bradley hit three straight three-pointers and scored 11 of his 18 points in a game-deciding third quarter as the surging Boston Celtics defeated the New Jersey Nets, 94-82.

*Luke Harangody had 16 points and 10 rebounds, Anthony Parker scored 15 points and Tristan Thompson added 14 to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers in a 98-89 win over the Washington Wizards.

*O.J. Mayo scored 17 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to rally the Memphis Grizzlies to a 103-98 victory over the Utah Jazz.

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