Clippers win first play-off spot in 6 years

LOS ANGELES - The streaking Los Angeles Clippers knocked the Oklahoma City Thunder out of first place in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Western Conference on Monday, with a forceful 92-77 victory that earned the hosts a first play-off berth in six years.

Nick Young led a balanced attack with 19 points off the bench, and Blake Griffin added 17 as the Clippers overwhelmed the visiting Thunder in the second half to reach the post-season for the first time since the 2005/2006 season.

"It feels great, especially to do it against one of the top teams in the league," Young said. "I was too excited (after the game), I was slapping hands with everyone."

Winners in 12 of their last 14 games, the Clippers (38-23) - fourth in the Western Conference - also have a shot at their first Pacific Division title, trailing the Los Angeles Lakers by a game.

The Thunder (44-17) slipped behind the San Antonio Spurs in their see-saw tussle for the top seed in the conference.

Meanwhile, the injury-hit Chicago Bulls were struggling to hold on to top spot in the Eastern Coference, after being upset 84-87 by the Washington Wizards.

With second-placed Miami Heat rallying late to defeat hosts New Jersey Nets 101-98, they closed the gap on Chicago, improving to 43-17 while the Bulls fell to 46-15.

The Heat play hosts to Chicago tomorrow in what figures to be a critical showdown to decide the overall top seed in the East for the play-offs, beginning next Saturday.

Chicago played without reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose, who missed his 24th game of the season with a sore right foot, and Luol Deng, who has a right rib injury.

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