OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)—What the Los Angeles Clippers used to get from Elton Brand they’re now getting from Zach Randolph, and it’s proving to be a winning formula.
Randolph had 22 points and 13 rebounds for his fourth straight double-double, and rookie Eric Gordon fueled a 10-point run in the fourth quarter as the Clippers put away the Oklahoma City Thunder 98-88 Tuesday night to stretch their win streak to three.
Randolph, who was traded by the New York Knicks on Nov. 21, has cleared 21 points in all nine of his starts since joining Los Angeles and he picked up his 15th double-double of the season.
“We just kind of plugged him into the plays we had for Elton Brand,” Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. “They work just fine for him.”
Brand, a two-time All-Star, was averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds for his career when he opted out of his contract this offseason and signed a free-agent deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. Dunleavy has contended that Brand had a verbal agreement to re-sign with Los Angeles for another five years, but decided to go elsewhere.
Randolph is helping him forget about all of that. After coming off the bench in his Clippers debut, he averaged 26 points in his first eight starts before facing Oklahoma City.
“He’s just got an ability to score, both in the low post and on pick-and-rolls,” Dunleavy said. “The guy competes on every possession. That’s what you’re always looking for as a coach.”
Gordon, who scored the first six points in a 10-0 run that provided the Clippers with an 87-73 lead, also finished with 22 points. Baron Davis scored 19, Marcus Camby added 13 points and 15 rebounds, and Al Thornton had 12 points as all of the Clippers starters’ reached double figures.
Durant led Oklahoma City with 23 points, and Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox scored 13 apiece. The Thunder are now 1-12 under interim coach Scott Brooks, the same record they had when P.J. Carlesimo was fired.
“We need to be better consistently. Right now, anything that we’re doing on the road or at home is not working,” Wilcox said. “We’ve got to come together, keep our heads up and just keep lifting each other up.”
Randolph was averaging 20.5 points with the Knicks before he was sent across the country to a team that had started the season 2-9. Los Angeles has now won three straight for the first time since starting last season 4-0.
“I was playing like this in New York. I just want to win,” Randolph said. “That’s what we’ve got to do. That’s what it’s all about.”
Dunleavy has even higher hopes because the current hot stretch has come without Ricky Davis (knee) and Chris Kaman (foot). That’s made Randolph’s presence even more important.
“Just to be able to have a go-to guy in the low post, it stabilizes you. When you need a bucket, you’ve got a place that you can go,” Dunleavy said.
“Tonight was one of his poorer games for us. It looked pretty good from where most people sat.”
The Clippers led 15-4 after Randolph hit a hook shot in the lane to cap a 13-0 run early on, and the edge stretched to as many as 14 before Oklahoma City started its comeback in the second period.
Russell Westbrook gave the Thunder their only two leads of the second half with a pair of free throws and then a coast-to-coast layup that made it 59-58, but then Randolph and Camby went to work inside.
The post tandem scored three of Clippers’ next four baskets off of offensive rebounds, and Davis used a crafty pump fake to get Durant off his feet for a foul with 1.8 seconds left in the third quarter. Davis cashed in on all three free throws to push the lead to 70-65.
His 3-pointer from the top of the key extended the Clippers’ edge to 77-69, and then Gordon provided the finishing touches—with a little help from Randolph. The 6-foot-9 big man had two of his four assists during the Clippers’ 10-point surge.
“Because of the attention he’s going to get in the low post, he’s been doing a nice job for us passing the ball,” Dunleavy said. “People said when I got him that he’s a black hole, and I haven’t seen that at all.”