April 7, 2011 in Sports

Thunder win first title since Seattle days

Associated Press photo

Thunder guard Russell Westbrook shoots in front of Mo Williams.
(Full-size photo)

NBA: Kevin Durant scored 29 points, Russell Westbrook added 26 and the Oklahoma City Thunder clinched the Northwest Division title by beating the Los Angeles Clippers 112-108 on Wednesday night at Oklahoma City.

The Thunder won the first division crown for the franchise since 2005, when they were known as the Seattle SuperSonics, but only after fending off a late charge from the Clippers.

Blake Griffin had 35 points and 11 rebounds in the second visit to his hometown in his NBA career, but he missed a key foul shot that helped put the game away for Oklahoma City.

Durant hit two free throws at the other end to put the Thunder up 110-106 with 12 seconds left.

Lakers’ loss hands No. 1 to San Antonio: Monta Ellis scored 26 points, David Lee had 22 points and 17 rebounds, and the Golden State Warriors held on to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 95-87 at Oakland, Calif.

A night after a lazy loss at home to the depleted Utah Jazz, the Lakers might have played even worse in ending any chance of earning the top seed in the Western Conference. San Antonio’s 124-92 victory over Sacramento, combined with the Lakers’ loss, gave the Spurs home-court advantage throughout the West playoffs.

Hornets grab playoff spot: Chris Paul had 28 points and 10 assists, and the New Orleans Hornets clinched a playoff spot with a 101-93 victory over the visiting Houston Rockets.

Trevor Ariza, acquired by the Hornets from Houston in an offseason trade, scored 19 for a second straight game and tied a season high with six steals.

Jarrett Jack added 19 points, while seventh-year pro Emeka Okafor, who’s never been to the playoffs, added 11 points.

Pacers also make postseason: Danny Granger scored 25 points, and the Indiana Pacers clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2006 with a 136-112 victory against the Washington Wizards at Indianapolis.

The Pacers needed a win and a Charlotte loss to Orlando to clinch a spot in the postseason. As the Pacers’ game ended, the Orlando-Charlotte game was in overtime, and the Conseco Fieldhouse staff put the game on the Jumbotron. Many fans stayed to cheer to the Magic on to a 111-102 win.

Capitals move closer to clinching top seed

NHL: The Washington Capitals’ power play is hitting its stride just in time for the playoffs, with Mike Knuble and Jason Chimera both scoring with the man advantage in a 5-2 home victory over the Florida Panthers.

The win was the Capitals’ fourth straight and put them on the brink of clinching the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the second year in a row.

Blackhawks near clinching: Jonathan Toews scored on a low shot from the left circle at 3:19 of overtime to give Chicago a 4-3 victory over the visiting St. Louis Blues and move the Blackhawks within two points of a clinching a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Chicago’s Marian Hossa, Tomas Kopecky and Nick Leddy scored in the second period to help the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks erase a two-goal deficit.

Federal judge needs time for NFL case

Football: The federal judge overseeing the NFL players’ request to lift a lockout by the owners said it will take “a couple of weeks” to rule.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson, however, urged both sides to get back to the bargaining table.

Nelson heard arguments from lawyers for the players and NFL owners in St. Paul, Minn.

The players say their careers are being irreparably harmed by the lockout.

The owners say Nelson doesn’t have the jurisdiction to issue an injunction while there is a complaint before the National Labor Relations Board.

Gregoire signs bill to help racing tracks

Horse racing: Gov. Chris Gregoire on Tuesday signed a bill that should help some state funding flow to area horse racing tracks for nonprofit meets.

The bill was sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, who wanted to address a situation in which the state Horse Racing Commission had denied race dates to tracks in Waitsburg, Dayton and Walla Walla because it lacked funding.

He said his bill will help the horse racing industry acquire funding and retain jobs for horse trainers, jockeys and other industry employees.

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