Capitals

NBA Capsules

NBA Capsules

LOS ANGELES (AP) Kevin Durant scored 32 points, Russell Westbrook added 26 and the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 109-97 on Tuesday night in a matchup of teams with the two best records in the NBA.

Serge Ibaka added 17 points before fouling out late while helping the Thunder improve to a league-leading 33-9 and expand their lead in the West to 1 1/2 games over the Clippers, who were without All-Star Chris Paul and fell to 32-11.

Blake Griffin had 31 points and 11 rebounds, and Jamal Crawford added 14 points off the bench. Eric Bledsoe had 12 points in place of Paul.

The Clippers had won four straight at home against the Thunder, and they led much of the first quarter before giving up the lead for good early in the second.

PISTONS 105, MAGIC 90

AUBURN HILS, Mich. (AP) - Jason Maxiell, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe combined for 38 points and 28 rebounds, and Detroit pulled away to beat undersized Orlando.

Brandon Knight led the Pistons with 18 points, while Monroe scored 16 and Drummond and Maxiell each had 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Detroit also finished with a 16-6 edge in offensive rebounds against the Magic, who had their size issues magnified when Glen Davis was benched for much of the second half after taking 15 first-half shots and grabbing just three rebounds. He attempted just one shot the rest of the way and finished with 11 points.

J.J. Redick was Orlando's biggest threat, scoring 26 points on 9-for-10 shooting - including 5 for 6 on 3-pointers. Jameer Nelson added 14 points and nine rebounds.

BUCKS 110, 76ERS 102

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Ersan Ilyasova had 27 points and 16 rebounds, Brandon Jennings scored 25 points and Milwaukee won for the sixth time in eight games since Jim Boylan replaced Scott Skiles as coach.

Monta Ellis added 18 points and 10 assists for the Bucks who lost the last four before Skiles parted ways with the team.

Evan Turner scored 23 points to lead the 76ers, Spencer Hawes added 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Nick Young scored had 20 points. Philadelphia lost its fifth straight on the road, and 15th in its last 21 overall.

The Sixers cut the Bucks' lead to 90-86 when Thaddeus Young stole the ball and scored on a breakaway layup with 6:47 remaining. Ilyasova made a free throw to extend Milwaukee's lead to 99-92 with 3:56 left. He then hit a jumper with about 2 1/2 minutes to go, stretching the advantage to nine points.

After Hawes' baseline jumper trimmed the lead to 101-94, Milwaukee made 4 of 6 free throws in the final minute to seal the win.

CAVALIERS 95, CELTICS 90

CLEVELAND (AP) - Kyrie Irving scored 15 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter, including several key late baskets, to help Cleveland get back-to-back home wins for the first time this season.

Irving scored 11 points in the final 2:33 on four layups and three free throws as the Cavaliers sent Boston to its season-high fourth straight loss. Irving shot 16 for 24 - setting a career high for field goals made - and fell one point short of his career-best scoring total, set at New York on Dec. 15.

Tristan Thompson added 21 points for the Cavaliers.

Rajon Rondo led Boston with 17 points while Kevin Garnett scored 16. Paul Pierce, who scored 40 points in a 103-91 win over the Cavaliers in Boston on Dec. 19, finished with 12 points on 3-for-15 shooting.

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

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USA TODAY Sports

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE

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3 stars of the game: Caps knockout the punchless Sabres

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3 stars of the game: Caps knockout the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson.

Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's first two goals. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.