If Thunder D Doesn’t Bother To Show, The Clippers Will Make Them Pay For It

If Thunder D Doesn’t Bother To Show, The Clippers Will Make Them Pay For It

I said it in the series preview, and I’ll say it again. If the Thunder defense does not bring their A-Game against the #1 offense of the regular season, the Clippers will light them up. Don’t believe me? Look at the Clippers point totals from the first 3 quarters of Game 1: 39, 30, & 35.

Russell Westbrook's 29 points led the Thunder, but Chris Paul's 32 points and 10 assists wrapped up a win for the Clippers.

Russell Westbrook’s 29 points led the Thunder, but Chris Paul’s 32 points and 10 assists wrapped up a win for the Clippers.

Honestly, how do the Thunder expect to win games if their defense goes AWOL for the first 36 minutes? Chris Paul’s 32 points led all scorers to take the floor, but it wasn’t just the point total that was so astounding. It was the fact that his 32 points came off of 12-for-14 (85.7%) shooting, including 8-for-9 (88.9%) from beyond the arc. That’s just insane efficiency. He definitely had the hot hand in that game. Not only that, but his 10 assists gave him a double-double. Blake Griffin added 23 points, J.J. Redick added 12 off of 5-for-8 (62.5%) shooting, and Jamal Crawford added 17 from the Clippers bench, shooting 6-of-11 (54.5%). The only two double-digit scorers for the Clippers that shot under 50% were Griffin, who’s 23 points came off of 7-for-16 (43.8%) shooting, and Matt Barnes’s 10 points off of 4-for-10 (40%) shooting. Either way, every player to score double-digits for the Clippers shot 40% or better. That type of efficiency from Thunder opponents rarely translates to a Thunder win.

Kevin Durant's MVP status and 25 points weren't enough Monday night.

Kevin Durant’s MVP status and 25 points weren’t enough Monday night.

Plus, where was the bench scoring for the Thunder? The Thunder rarely, if ever, win games without at least one person coming off of the bench to score double digits. The starters who scored double-digits were actually quite efficient in their scoring. Kevin Durant’s 25 points came off of 9-for-19 shooting (47.4%), Russell Westbrook’s 29 points came off of 9-for-14 shooting (64.3%), and Serge Ibaka’s 12 points came off of 6-for-9 shooting (66.7%). But no bench players reached the double-digit plateau. Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III each scored 8, but that was in garbage time, when the game was pretty much already decided.

Serge Ibaka shoots over Griffin. Sadly, it loos as though Ibaka's offensive abilities will continue to be underrated.

Serge Ibaka shoots over Blake Griffin. Sadly, it looks as though Ibaka’s offensive abilities will continue to be underrated.

Tonight’s game will have another 8:30 pm CST tip-off, and the Thunder will look to have their recently named MVP player go off tonight. The thing is, he will need help from his teammates, especially on the defensive end. The Thunder do not want to head to Staples Center down 2-0. Tonight’s game will be featured at the back-end of TNT’s double-header, and will also be broadcast via WWLS The Sports Animal.

(Side note: This may be my final post, as I’ve been picked up as a staff writer for Mark Bruty and Thunderous Intentions, which is part of the Fansided network. I still have to go through the initial setup, but I’ll let everyone know when and where they can catch me next. For those of you who have been loyal readers to this point, I sincerely do appreciate your support.)

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Thunder-Clippers: A Look Ahead

Thunder-Clippers: A Look Ahead

If you thought the Thunder-Grizzlies series was a nail-biter, you may not be ready for Thunder-Clippers. People who are sans fingernails from the Thunder’s 7-game showdown with the Grizzlies more than likely won’t make it to the end of this series without experiencing cardiac arrest at some point.

Russell Westbrook 2014 Playoff averages: 25.6 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 8 APG

Russell Westbrook 2014 Playoff averages: 25.6 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 8 APG

Make no mistake, these two teams are very evenly matched. If you’re looking for proof of that last statement, look no further than the 2-2 season-series split between both squads. The first matchup was played back on Nov. 13th, and was most notorious for the Serge Ibaka-Matt Barnes double ejection.

I honestly agree with one commenter’s assessment of it. They should have thrown out double Ts and moved on. It was only a little shoving, it’s not like a punch was even thrown. Either way, Ibaka’s ejection proved costly for the Thunder, as the Clippers took that matchup 111-103.

Former Clipper Caron Butler looks to be taking Thabo Sefolosha's starting SG spot for the forseeable future. 2014 Playoff averages: 7.9 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1 APG

Former Clipper Caron Butler looks to be taking Thabo Sefolosha’s starting SG spot for the forseeable future. 2014 Playoff averages: 7.9 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1 APG

Matchup #2 gave us a bit of Thunder revenge a mere eight nights later. An out-of-sync Clippers defense allowed 51.9% shooting from the Thunder, and the Thunder went on to a convincing 105-91 outcome. The thing that stuck out to me about that game was towards the end, when Steven Adams goes to shake the hand of former Thunder player Byron Mullens, and Mullens doesn’t even bother to acknowledge him. Adams, crafty big man that he is, decided to remedy the situation in his own way:

Adams: "Good game... or not. Whatever. At least I'm still The Man."

Adams: “Good game… or not. Whatever. At least I’m still The Man.”

The third matchup was played Feb. 23rd, exactly one week after the All-Star game. The Thunder struggled mightily following the All-Star break, but I thought they played the Clippers well here. The defense did everything you can do short of fouling, but Clippers bench player Jamal Crawford was not going to be stopped in that game. I couldn’t believe some of the shots he was making through the defense the Thunder had on him. He had basically no space, hands all up in his line of sight, and he was still draining jumpers, some of them all-net, which was a big factor in getting the Clippers a 125-117 victory. Here’s video of Crawford’s 36-point performance. Your eyes will pop out of your head as you see some of the shots he was hitting.

Less than a month ago, April 9th, saw the last regular-season meeting between the two squads. It was a game the Thunder controlled pretty much the entire way, but a 4th quarter surge by the Clippers nearly stole the victory. the Thunder were able to hold them off at the end for a 107-101 victory.

Kevin Durant 2014 Playoff averages: 29.9 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.4 APG

Kevin Durant 2014 Playoff averages: 29.9 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.4 APG

As it pertains to this playoff series, the Thunder are staring down the NBA’s highest scoring team of the regular season (averaging 107.9 points a game). Therefore, the Thunder D will need to be on top of their game at all times. One defensive slip up, and a large enough Clipper run, and the Thunder will see games get away from them. This is a Clipper team that does not let up, and they seem to love the run-and-gun style just as much as the Thunder. The Thunder, on the other hand, counter with the league’s leading scorer in Kevin Durant. According to NBA.com, here are five things to keep an eye on as this series progresses:

Serge Ibaka 2014 Playoff averages: 13 PPG, 7.1 RPG, .6 APG

Serge Ibaka 2014 Playoff averages: 13 PPG, 7.1 RPG, .6 APG

1) The play of Kevin Durant: He was struggling immensely in the Grizzlies series before a disparaging headline and possible elimination forced him to stop thinking, and start having fun. He went from averaging 28 points on 40% shooting in the first 5 games, to 34.5 points off of 56% shooting in the last 2. He can’t think about things too much. He needs to just go out on the court loose, and treat it like a day at the park. When he just let’s his game flow naturally, he’s at his best. Overanalyzing things has a tendency to hurt an athlete’s overall performance, because then hesitation in said athlete becomes increasingly noticeable. Hesitation in this league can prove very costly. Trust me. This is coming from one of the most notorious overanalyzers on Earth. This is actually the reason I time-crunch assignments in my college courses. Waiting until the last possible second to get my assignments done prevents me from overthinking them, and turning in an incoherent essay with my thoughts all over the place because, “Oh, I just thought of this as well”. Because in all honesty, if certain facts failed to pop in your head as you write something, the thoughts that you omitted are more than likely not that relevant to your topic anyway. But, as you may have noticed, I’m beginning to digress here.

Kendrick Perkins 2014 playoff averages: 4.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, .7 APG (Perkins: "You really thought I was gonna smile in this photo?")

Kendrick Perkins 2014 Playoff averages: 4.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, .7 APG (Perkins: “You really thought I was gonna smile in this photo?”)

2) Chris Paul’s sore right hamstring: Sore hamstrings are already tough to deal with on their own, but as Mike Conley proved in Game 7 of the previous series, a sore right hamstring is even tougher to deal with when you’re tasked with guarding Russell Westbrook. While Conley was good for 20 points in that game, he had no answer for Westbrook’s blinding speed. Westbrook’s 27-point, 16-assist, 10 rebound triple-double put him in some elite company. Paul should still get his numbers, as he posted a 22 point, 14 assist double-double in Game 7 vs. the Warriors. Although now Paul is going to try to accomplish what Conley could not, and try to limit Westbrook’s numbers on a bad hamstring, which is far easier said than done.

Chris Paul 2014 Playoff averages: 17.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 9 APG

Chris Paul 2014 Playoff averages: 17.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 9 APG

3) The Ibaka-Griffin matchup: Let’s face it. We all know Blake Griffin is a beast. Oklahoma is familiar with Griffin, seeing as he played his high school and college ball here in the state. Griffin is used to dominating his opposition down low, but Ibaka is not a man who can be dominated very easily, if he can be dominated at all. Plus it seems as though tensions really ratchet up in the post when those two are battling down there.

J.J. Reddick 2014 Playoff averages: 14.3 PPG, 2 RPG, 2.3 APG

J.J. Reddick 2014 Playoff averages: 14.3 PPG, 2 RPG, 2.3 APG

4) Will Westbrook continue to facilitate?: Westbrook’s first 5 games against the Grizzlies saw him take 25.6 shots per game, as he averaged 25.4 points per game on 34% shooting. He actually averaged more points in the final 2 games at 26 off of 51% shooting. His shots per game fell to 18.5 as his assists climbed to 10.5 a game. As long as he can maintain a balance between facilitating and aggression, he’ll help give the Thunder the best possible chance to win.

Matt Barnes 2014 Playoff averages: 8.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.9 APG

Matt Barnes 2014 Playoff averages: 8.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.9 APG

5) How much do these teams have left?: NBA.com asked this question in regards to the Clippers, but I honestly still feel as though it applies to the Thunder as well. Both teams just came off of brutal and highly physical 7-game tests. Granted, the Thunder really seemed to find their stride in their last 2, while the Clippers were trailing for the majority of their Game 7 against the Warriors, so I can see why NBA.com wasn’t as quick to ask that about the Thunder. But these two teams matchup very well, and this series is expected to be just as physical as their previous ones. One key injury could easily derail either squad.

Blake Griffin 2014 Playoff averages: 23.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.6 APG

Blake Griffin 2014 Playoff averages: 23.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.6 APG

I’m noticing that when people are asked to pick a winner, the majority will say either the Clippers in 6, or the Thunder in 7. I’m leaning more towards the Thunder in 7 myself. If the Clippers win, they’ll have to get it done in 6, because if a Game 7 in OKC is forced, I just don’t see the Clippers having anything left for it. The reason? I just feel like they’ll expend most of their energy trying to close out Game 6. Failure to do so would leave that team way too drained to compete in Game 7. The Clippers could potentially take a game or two here in OKC, but it certainly won’t be the deciding Game 7 if it comes down to it.

DeAndre Jordan 2014 Playoff averages: 12.1 PPG, 15.1 RPG, 1 APG

DeAndre Jordan 2014 Playoff averages: 12.1 PPG, 15.1 RPG, 1 APG

Game 1 comes to us from The Peake, and tip-off is scheduled for 8:30pm CST. The game will be featured at the back-end of TNT’s double-header, and you already know you’re going to want to catch this one. I have a feeling this series could produce even more drama than the last one.

Let the Memphis Conspiracy Theories Begin

Let the Memphis Conspiracy Theories Begin

Blaming refs, blaming league officials, blaming any outside force they can think of is exactly what almost all fans do once their team has been eliminated from the postseason. Hell, the conspiracy theories out of Memphis had already started before Game 7 even tipped.

Kevin Durant led all scorers with his 33 points. Here he is with that scowl I like to see from him. Get mad, KD!

Kevin Durant led all scorers with his 33 points. Here he is with that scowl I like to see from him. Get mad, KD!

I was seeing ignorant drivel on my Facebook feed to the likes of:

“They only suspended Z-Bo because they can’t afford to have their MVP ousted from the 1st round.”

“That wasn’t a punch! That was a shove!”

“The Grizz would have won if the refs weren’t playing for OKC.”

The last statement made me laugh. If that were the case, why did the Grizzlies take 34 free throws to the Thunder’s 30 in Game 7? Why did they take 28 free throws to the Thunder’s 25 in Game 6? Why did the Grizz take 26 free throws to the Thunder’s 19 in Game 5? Why did they take 23 free throws to the Thunder’s 20 in Game 4? The refs gave the Grizz chance after chance. It’s not the NBA’s fault that the Grizzlies couldn’t cash in at the line.

Russell Westbrook's 27-point, 16-assist, 10-rebound triple-double proved historic.

Russell Westbrook’s 27-point, 16-assist, 10-rebound triple-double proved historic.

And to the idiots saying Zach Randolph only pushed Steven Adams and didn’t punch him, this tape proves otherwise.

And some sad Memphis fans still willfully put blinders on and called it a push on the video. The butthurt in the comments section is very strong. I guess I’d be disappointed too if my team had a chance to eliminate a #2 seed in Game 6, only to suffer a monumental 2-game collapse and blow the series. Quit making excuses for a thug like Randolph! He has a history of pulling this crap, and that history is what likely prompted the decision to suspend him. If you can’t hold your emotions in check, you’re in the wrong league. This is not Rucker Park, or The Cage on West 4th St. No blood, no foul does not apply to the NBA. This is a league of professionals, and anyone who fails to conduct themselves in a professional manner suffers the consequences. It doesn’t really matter anyway, because what’s done is done. Hell, I’m done with the Randolph issue. Let’s take a look at these Game 7 numbers.

Serge Ibaka dropped 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting.

Serge Ibaka dropped 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting.

The Thunder used a total team effort in Game 7 to advance. Kevin Durant’s 33 points led all scorers to take the floor. Russell Westbrook’s 27-point, 16-assist, 10-rebound triple-double marks his 2nd Game 7 triple-double for his postseason career, making him only the 2nd player in NBA history to accomplish the feat, with Rajon Rondo being the 1st. The stat line also makes him the 3rd player in NBA history to score at least 25 points, dish out at least 15 assists, and pull down at least 10 rebounds in an NBA playoff game. Oscar Robinson was the first to accomplish this feat, and Chris Paul (who the Thunder will see in the next round) has accomplished it on two separate occasions. Not only that, but Westbrook’s 16 assists ties a postseason franchise record that was set by Nate McMillan back in ’87, when they were still the Seattle Supersonics. Serge Ibaka was good for 12 points, and Caron Butler scored 15 as he once again started at SG in place of Thabo Sefolosha. While you figure Sefolosha would be a little miffed at being benched, it looks like he took it in stride. I’m sure he feels like any lineup changes that result in an NBA Championship are more than welcome. I know that’s how I’d feel about it if I were in his position. But to conclude, Reggie Jackson came off of the bench to drop 16 points. With a 120-109 victory, those 16 points were the difference between an 11-point victory and a 5-point defeat. When at least one bench player scores big, the Thunder put themselves in a much better position to win.

Caron Butler scores 15 starting in place of Thabo Sefolosha for the 2nd straight game.

Caron Butler scores 15 starting in place of Thabo Sefolosha for the 2nd straight game.

Marc Gasol’s 24 points led the Grizzlies, but Mike Conley deserves some credit for dropping 20 points while playing on a bad hamstring. Courtney Lee dropped 16, and Tony Allen was good for 15 points starting in place of Tayshaun Prince and playing with an eye injury. Beno Udrih came off of the Grizzlies bench to score 12.

Reggie Jackson was good for 16 points off of the Thunder bench.

Reggie Jackson was good for 16 points off of the Thunder bench.

I will bring you the Thunder-Clippers series preview tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy the series victory. Stay basketball-hungry, my friends.

Thunder 2 For 2 In California Back-To-Back

Thunder 2 For 2 In California Back-To-Back

A couple of streaks ended Tuesday night, as the Kings held Durant to just 23 points. Granted, he didn’t play one minute of the 4th, and seemed like he was happy the media focus was about to disperse back throughout the entire squad, instead of the brightest spotlight being squarely on him.

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Kevin Durant dunks as (from left) Ben McLemore, DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson, and Travis Outlaw all look on. Durant’s 23-point performance ended his streak, but he did drop 27 against the Clippers. Cousins had a 24-point, 14-rebound performance, while Outlaw also added 24 points. McLemore and Thompson were both good for 11 apiece.

“I don’t like all the attention when it’s a team game. I’m glad it’s over.”

Serge Ibaka battles Thompson for the loose ball as Durant and Caron Butler look on. Ibaka scored 19 against the Kings, and 15 against the Clippers. Butler didn’t do much in the Clippers game, but went off for 23 points against the Kings.

Another bright spot for the Thunder is that Kendrick Perkins returned for the Spurs affair, and now Thabo Sefolosha is officially back as well, as he was cleared to play just in time for the Kings contest. Now our starting five is finally healthy, and just in time too.

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Reggie Jackson throws down. Jackson only had 9 points against the Clips, but scored 13 against the Kings.

A Thunder 2-game losing streak also snapped when the Thunder found victory at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, using a 16-0 run to start the 4th to create the breathing space necessary to win. They were only up 8 (85-77) to start the 4th, and found themselves up 101-77 with 6:24 to play. After that, it was all the Kings could do to pull back within 20. Once the final buzzer sounded, the Kings still took a 107-92 pasting that jumped the Thunder to 56-21, while dropping the Kings to a horrid 27-51.

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Jeremy Lamb shoots the fadeaway over Jared Cunningham. Lamb didn’t do much against the Clippers, but dropped 10 points against the Kings.

Durant was good for 23 points, while Serge Ibaka posted 19, and Russell Westbrook added 13. While Jeremy Lamb posted 10 points off of the Thunder bench, Caron Butler had the hot hand in this contest, scoring 23 points off of 8-for-10 shooting, including 6-for-6 on his 3-ball attempts from off of the bench.

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Butler fires one over the outstretched arm of Derrick Williams.

DeMarcus Cousins posted a 24-point, 14-rebound double-double, while Travis Outlaw added 24 points of his own. Jason Thompson and Ben McLemore were good for 11 points apiece as well. The Kings got almost nothing from their bench, as 4 bench players combined for a total of 15 points.

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Cousins tries to score around Ibaka.

The Clippers, on the other hand, were (and still are) sitting in the #3 seed for the Western Conference, knowing full well that their playoff appearance is guaranteed at this stage. As of Wednesday night, they were still an outside threat to potentially steal the #2 spot from the Thunder, so this game was all about the playoff seeding.

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Durant and Blake Griffin square off. Griffin finished with a 30-point, 12-rebound double-double.

As of tonight, however, the #1 spot is officially going to the Spurs, as the Thunder are 3 1/2 games back with only 4 games remaining, counting the Clippers victory. The Spurs, however, only have 3 games remaining, meaning even if they lose out, the Thunder would still be half-a-game back for the #1 seed.

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Serge “Air Congo” Ibaka

Oddly, the Clippers managed a maximum lead of 1 on the Thunder for the whole game, while the Thunder had their’s pushed to 17 at one point. Although this particular 4th quarter nearly went the Clippers’ way. The Thunder were up 94-79 with 7:08 to play, when the Clippers sparked a 16-0 run to pull within a single point (94-93) while taking just over two minutes off of the clock. The Thunder lead was only 2 (102-100) with just over 1 minute remaining, yet free throws were the only made baskets in that final minute. Seeing as the Thunder made 5 free throws to the Clippers’ 1 in that time frame, the Thunder escaped Staples Center with a 107-101 victory that puts the Thunder at 57-21 while dropping the Clippers to 55-24. With the Clippers now 2 1/2 games behind the Thunder, and with only 4 games left on the Thunder schedule, the Thunder only need 2 more victories to secure the #2 seed.

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Russell Westbrook takes advantage of a wide lane to the rack, as Griffin defends. Nick Collison, Darren Collison, DeAndre Jordan, Durant, and Chris Paul watch. Jordan’s 10-point, 12-board performance allowed him a double-double as well. Chris Paul ended his night with 25 points.

Westbrook went off in his home city of L.A., dropping 30 points and pulling down 11 boards. Durant was right behind him with 27, and Ibaka dropped 15. We didn’t get our usual bench production in this one though, as 5 bench players combined for 26 total points.

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Durant dunk mode!

Two double-doubles by Clipper starters weren’t enough to seal the win here (Blake Griffin: 30 points, 12 rebounds. DeAndre Jordan: 10 points, 12 rebounds.), even after adding Chris Paul’s 25 points. Although Darren Collison deserves credit for a decent game off of the Clippers bench, scoring 12.

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Cousins making Westbrook’s shot a bit tougher.

4 teams are still vying for 3 remaining playoff seeds (the Trail Blazers have since clinched), but tonight’s opponent, the Pelicans, are not among those teams. They’re simply looking to play spoiler coming into OKC, as that’s really all they can do. The Thunder took the first contest in this series 109-95 back on Dec. 6th, and a win tonight will claim the season series outright for the Thunder, despite another match-up to take place this coming Monday. Tonight’s affair tips at 7pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.

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.