Thunder Play Well, Yet Still Outplayed By Red-Hot Clippers.

Thunder Play Well, Yet Still Outplayed By Red-Hot Clippers.

I’ve never seen a scoreboard explode like that. Crazy amounts of buckets were being racked up by both squads, and it was a fun one to watch. Although the Clippers were missing 3-point specialist J.J. Redick due to a bulging disk in his lower back, it quickly became obvious that his scoring ability would not be needed in this contest.

JJ. Redick during a media day for the Clippers. He did not dress yesterday due to a bulging disc in his lower back.

JJ. Redick during a media day for the Clippers. He did not dress yesterday due to a bulging disc in his lower back.

The Clippers opened the game on a 12-2 run, then the Thunder immediately responded with a 5-0 run of their own to close the Clipper lead to 5 (12-7) with 7:14 to play in the 1st.  The Clipper lead was at 7 (17-10) with 6:27 left in the quarter when the Thunder opened up another run (this one an 11-2 run) to take their first lead of the game (21-19) with 4:45 remaining in the opening period. The Clippers had reestablished a 3-point lead (28-25) with 2:09 to go in the opening quarter, when the Thunder sparked yet another run that extended into the 2nd period. The Thunder run was still active at 7-0 when the 1st expired, closing out the quarter with a 4-point Thunder lead (32-28).

Thabo Sefolosha talks with Russell Westbrook as  Serge Ibaka rests in the background. Ibaka was good for 20 points yesterday, as Sefolosha added 10 of his own. Westbrook finshed his second game back in nearly two months with 13 points.

Thabo Sefolosha talks with Russell Westbrook as Serge Ibaka rests in the background. Ibaka was good for 20 points yesterday, as Sefolosha added 10 of his own. Westbrook finished his second game back in nearly two months with 13 points.

The Thunder run finally ended at 13-2, pushing the Thunder lead to what would be, unbeknownst to them at the time, their largest of the game at 8 (38-30) with 10:28 remaining in the first half. 40-32 at the 9:28 mark was the last 8-point Thunder advantage, as the Clippers proceeded to open up an impressive 11-0 run of their own to reclaim a 3-point advantage (43-40) with 6:57 to go until halftime. The Clippers were barely clutching a 1-point lead (46-45) halfway through the 2nd quarter, when the Thunder created another run. The 11-3 run they were able to generate swung the lead back in the Thunder’s favor (56-49) with 4:22 to play in the half. As if they were cued to do so, the Clippers responded with a 5-0 run to pull within 2 (56-54), while taking less than a full minute off of the clock (3:25 left on the game clock). The Thunder tried their best to hold the Clippers off, still clutching a 2-point advantage (61-59) with 2:11 left until halftime. I guess the Clippers were just destined to end the first half on an insane flurry, as they sparked a red-hot 12-3 run to claim an 8-point advantage of their own (72-64) with a mere 9.8 seconds remaining on the game clock. Kevin Durant was able to cut the Clipper lead to 6 before the half with a jumper, but the damage was done, as the Clippers went into halftime with a 72-66 advantage. This quarter had every bit of the feel of an evenly contested quarter, featuring not only 3 ties and 3 lead changes, but also featuring a maximum lead of 8 for both teams. In hindsight, however, this was the quarter that did the damage to the Thunder. Despite scoring 34 points as a team, they were outscored a full 10 by the Clippers. This means they allowed 44 points from the Clippers in this one 12-minute period.

Chris Paul takes the ball upcourt. Paul posted an 18-point, 12-assist double-double yesterday.

Chris Paul takes the ball upcourt. Paul posted an 18-point, 12-assist double-double yesterday.

The 3rd quarter began with the Thunder closing a 6-0 scoring run started off by the Durant jumper that closed the first half, pulling them within 2 (72-70) with 11:02 to play in the 3rd. The Thunder were still within one possession at the 8:50 mark (80-77), when the Clippers opened up their largest run of the game; a 15-3 run that also gave the Clippers what would be their largest lead of the game at 15 (95-80) with a mere 2:14 left in the 3rd quarter. The Thunder had no intentions of going away quietly, however, as they ended the quarter on an active 13-4 run that saw them trailing 99-93 heading into the final quarter.

Matt Barnes tries to take the charge from Kevin Durant as Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan look on. Durant finished with a 42-point, 10-assist double-double, while Jordan posted an 18-point, 12-rebound double-double of his own. Barnes chipped in 24 points, and Griffin added 20 for the Clippers.

Matt Barnes tries to take the charge from Kevin Durant as Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan look on. Durant finished with a 42-point, 10-assist double-double, while Jordan posted an 18-point, 12-rebound double-double of his own. Barnes chipped in 24 points, and Griffin added 20 for the Clippers.

The 4th quarter was not lacking in drama either, as the Thunder run completed at 18-4, pulling them within 1 (99-98) with 9:52 to play. Then a tense back-and-forth ensued all the way up to the 4:29 mark, with the Clippers still clinging to a 3-point advantage (112-109). That’s when the Thunder hit what would be their final run of the game. This was a 6-0 run that gave the Thunder a 3-point lead, and a chance to close the game with a victory. That victory was not to be for the Thunder, as two untimely misses by Durant at the free throw line were the true symbols of the kind of day the Thunder were set to experience. Despite playing a pretty solid game all-around, the Clippers were just red-hot to close it out, ending the game on a 16-5 run that gave them a 125-117 victory once the final buzzer sounded. This win improves the Clippers to 38-20, while dropping the Thunder to 43-14. This win also gives the Clippers a 2-1 season-series edge.

Durant beats Jordan to the rim.

Durant beats Jordan to the rim.

Durant had a solid 42-point, 10 assist double double. This 40+-point performance marks his 9th of the season. Serge Ibaka had 20 points, although he was held scoreless in the 4th. Russell Westbrook dropped 13 points in his second game back since Christmas Day, and Thabo Sefolosha added 10 points of his own. Even Derek Fisher logged 15 points off of the Thunder bench, going 5-for-7 from beyond the arc. I mean, the Thunder totalled 117 points as a unit. Normally when they have that kind of production, they’re winning by 15 or more. Yesterday just wasn’t in the cards for them, especially when the Clippers had Jamal Crawford hitting shots despite having zero space and hands all in his face.

Jamal Crawford goes one-on-one with Derek Fisher. Crawford's 36 points led the Clippers, as Fisher dropped 15 from the Thunder bench.

Jamal Crawford goes one-on-one with Derek Fisher. Crawford’s 36 points led the Clippers, as Fisher dropped 15 from the Thunder bench.

Crawford’s 36 points easily led the Clippers, but not to be lost in all of the red-hot offense emerged two impressive double-double performances. One was posted by the usual suspect, as Chris Paul ended his night with 18 points and 12 assists. The other really didn’t come as much of a shock either, as DeAndre Jordan finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Matt Barnes’ 24 points, and Blake Griffin’s 20 points ensured that every Clipper starter’s presence was felt. I would say the bench’s presence was completely unnecessary, but if you take away every one of the Clippers’ bench points, this game turns into a 1-point Thunder victory. Therefore, the 9 bench points scored by the Clippers actually spelled the difference between victory and defeat. If that isn’t proof that every made bucket is vital to improving your chances of victory, then I’m not sure if said proof is possible to obtain at all.

Jordan with the easy bucket.

Jordan with the easy bucket.

The Thunder get a couple of days to lick their wounds after dropping their second-straight at home for only the second time this season. Although I’m not really all that shocked that they’re taking a minute to get back into the swing of things. Quite frankly, no one else should be either. They went from a stretch where they played 18 games in a 31-day span, to a stretch of only 2 games in a 12-day span. Not only that, but they’ve been trying to rework Westbrook into the rotation over those two games in question. I have no doubts that the Thunder will settle down, and get things figured out as the schedule ramps up heading into March. The ramp-up begins Wednesday evening, as the Thunder welcome the Cleveland Cavaliers to OKC for the first match-up of the season between these two teams. Tip-off is scheduled for 7pm CST, and the game will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.

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