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Thunder hold off Nets 117-111 for 6th straight win

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Thunder hold off Nets 117-111 for 6th straight win

NEW YORK (AP) Kevin Durant scored 32 points, Russell Westbrook had 25 points and nine assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder held off the Brooklyn Nets 117-111 on Tuesday night for their sixth straight victory.

Serge Ibaka added 18 points and Thabo Sefolosha 14 for the Thunder, who revved up the NBA's No. 1 offense to surpass 100 points in a 10th straight game for the first time in 15 years. They beat the Nets for the seventh consecutive time, but had to work much harder for this win than they have lately.

Oklahoma City, which had won its last four by 25 points a game, leads the NBA in victory margin, beating teams by 9.8 points per game. But their 16-point lead was sliced to two down the stretch, even as they shot 60.6 percent for the game.

Deron Williams scored a season-high 34 points for the Nets, who had their six-game home winning streak snapped. They played without starting center Brook Lopez (sprained right foot) and reserve forward Reggie Evans (flu), leaving them without their leading scorer and top rebounder.

They still almost pulled it out after the Thunder threatened to run them off the floor in the first half, but lost their second straight following a five-game winning streak.

The Thunder hit 21 of their first 30 shots in an offensive clinic by the team that came in averaging an NBA-best 105.1 points per game, feeling so confident that Durant even tried a dunk that left the Barclays Center crowd gasping.

Andray Blatche had 19 points and 11 rebounds in Lopez's place, Joe Johnson scored 17 points, and Kris Humphries had 12 points and 12 boards for the Nets.

The Nets were on their longest home winning streak since late in 2005-06, but weren't quite sharp in their $1 billion arena, where even the overhead video board had some technical difficulties, resulting in some garbled names in the first half.

The Thunder hit 12 of 18 shots in the first quarter, getting 10 points apiece from Westbrook and Sefolosha, but the Nets stayed right with them behind 12 from Williams and trailed only 31-28 after one.

But the Thunder were just too sharp in the second quarter, and were spectacular even when the ball didn't go in. Durant launched himself for a dunk from at least 6 feet away, his feet way up near the 6-foot-11 Blatche's head for an attempt that would have rivaled anything Blake Griffin or Vince Carter has ever thrown down. He missed, throwing the ball hard off the rim, but Blatche was called for a foul and Durant made the free throws.

Durant hit all five shots in the period, and the Thunder pulled away with a 16-4 run before taking a 61-48 lead to the half.

They were running away with it when they scored six straight points to make it 73-57 with 8:26 remaining in the third, but then completely forgot to guard the 3-point line. The Nets made five in the final 3:49 of the period, getting within two before Durant's basket made it 90-86 heading to the fourth.

The Thunder quickly got it back to double digits but the Nets rallied again as Joe Johnson finally got untracked so Williams didn't have to carry the entire scoring load. His short jumper cut it to two with 2:14 left, but Durant was credited with a basket on a goaltend call against Humphries that stood up after video review. After Williams missed, Sefolosha swooped in to put back a miss to make it 112-106, and Oklahoma City was safe again.

Notes: Oklahoma City wore its alternate third uniforms, which are navy blue with ``Thunder'' written vertically along the right side of the chest. ... The Nets' Avery Johnson was the Eastern Conference coach of the month for November. ... If the Thunder ended the season with their current scoring margin, it would be the NBA's largest since Boston won by 10.3 points per game during its 2007-08 championship season.

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3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning

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USA TODAY Sports

3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning

After a rough start, the Caps battled back to make a game of it against Tampa Bay, but ultimately fell 4-2 to the Lightning. Here's why.

The first period

To put it simply, this game was lost in the opening period. Washington was the better team for the second and third but they could not overcome the 3-0 lead they spotted the Lightning in the first. Beyond the goals, the Caps just did not play well. Even the simplest of plays looked difficult as Washington struggled to get the puck out of their own zone, gave up numerous turnovers and scoring chances and just looked overmatched. Braden Holtby also looked shaky allowing three goals on just eight shots. Usually he is able to cover up some of the mistakes the defense makes it front of him, but he was not there to bail the team out on Tuesday in what was a really rocky start.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS FROM CAPS-LIGHTNING

Taking a penalty 34 seconds into the game

Entering Tuesday’s game, Tampa Bay boasted the second best power play unit in the league. Playing a disciplined game is part of every game plan, but that is especially true against such a dominant unit. Giving up a penalty just 34 seconds into the game was not an ideal start. The call itself was debatable. Brett Connolly was called for interference when he knocked over Dan Girardi in the offensive zone. The puck was just behind Girardi as he had lost control of it in his skates. The sticking point here is that Girardi no longer had possession and Connolly could have played the puck instead of the player. Most referees would probably let that go with the puck so close, but Connolly was not so lucky. Whether it was a good call or not, the Caps found themselves down a man and down a goal soon after as Brayden Point scored the power play tally.

A missed opportunity from Kuznetsov on one end, a goal for Nikita Kucherov on the other

Even after spotting the Lightning a 3-0 lead, the Caps made a game of it. Lars Eller struck on the power play in the second period and Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington to within one with about nine minutes left to play. Just over a minute later, Evgeny Kuznetsov stole the puck away from Nikita Kucherov, the frontrunner for league MVP this season, at the Tampa blue line giving the Caps a short 2-on-1. Defenseman Andrej Sustr was textbook on the play forcing Kuznetsov as far wide as he could go while still covering the passing lane and Kuznetsov elected to shoot from the faceoff dot rather than attempt the pass to T.J. Oshie.Andrei Vasilevskiy made a routine blocker save to deny what looked like a great opportunity to tie the game. As always happens in hockey, a failed opportunity on one end led to an opportunity in the other direction. Less than a minute later, Kucherov made up for his mistake by scoring a breakaway goal to put the game out of reach at 4-2.

MORE CAPITALS: KEMPNY EXCITED TO MOVE FROM LAST PLACE CHICAGO TO FIRST PLACE WASHINGTON

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3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

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USA TODAY Sports

3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

The first 20 minutes of Tuesday's game did not go well for Washington. The Tampa Bay Lightning scored three times in the opening frame and rode that lead all the way to the 4-2 win.

With the game heading towards a repeat of their blowout loss to Chicago, the Capitals rebounded in the second period to make a game of it as Lars Eller scored on a power play. Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington within one in the third period, but Nikita Kucherov slammed the door shut with a breakaway goal to extend the lead back to 2.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Brayden Point: Tampa Bay won this game in the first period when they took a 3-0 lead. Point scored two of those three goals. His first came at the 2:30 mark of the game. He retreated to the blue line on the power play believing Jay Beagle would clear the puck. When Beagle turned the puck over, he recognized it and immediately crashed the net, taking a Ryan Callahan pass in the slot and shooting it through the five-hole of Braden Holtby. On his second goal, Anton Stralman saw an opportunity on the Caps’ line change and passed the puck up to Point at the blue line. Point turned on the jets to get behind the defense and went five-hole again on Holtby to make the score 3-0.

2. Alex Ovechkin: After the first period, Washington slowly took this game over for much of the remaining 40 minutes. Ovechkin was a big part of that as he totaled an incredible 19 shot attempts for the game. Nine of those shots were on goal and he found the back of the net in the third period for career goal No. 594.

3. Tom Wilson: Through the first period, the Caps looked well on their way to a repeat of the 7-1 debacle they suffered Saturday in Chicago. They had nothing going in this game until Wilson drew a trip from Vladislav Namestnikov in the second period. Eller would score on the resulting power play giving Washington some much-needed life. The Namestnikov penalty was the 29th drawn penalty of the season for Wilson, which moves him into a tie with Matthew Tkachuk for the most drawn penalties in the NHL.