When you you recap a blowout loss your first time out of the gate, you brush it off as unfortunate. When it happens again the second time around, you start to get nervous. The masses will begin to turn on you at 3 recaps and three losses (Clipper fans are prone to believing in curses and jinxes). So naturally, I figured I would write recap number 3 of the year for a game on the second night of back to backs against scoring champion Kevin Durant and the league leading Oklahoma City Thunder. Luckily for me, things worked out this time, with the Clippers pulling out a fantastic win in front of their home crowd, defeating the thunder 112-100. Check out the box score here.
I did quite a bit of research before this one, trying to find the teams tendencies, and determine where either team may have an advantage against the other. The Thunder have a tendency to turn the ball over (worst in the league heading into this game at 16.5/per), advantage Clippers. The Thunder on the other hand are the best free throw shooting team in the league at 80.9%, while the clips have been dreadful in that department,at 66.2% to date (only Orlando has been worse). The difference in three point shooting is marginal, with the Clippers just narrowly edging out the thunder 36% to 35.3% (The Clippers shoot about 3 more per game). Perhaps the more significant stat in this game (and a big part of Oklahoma City's success) should have been the defense of the Thunder. Heading into this matchup, the thunder have held opposing teams to 29.5% from beyond the arc,and at 6.8 blocks a game. On top of that their bigs they do a pretty nice job of defending the rim as well, 2nd in the league in blocked shots per game at 6.8. As it would turn out, the statistics heading into the game would not be indicative of the end result.
The Clippers came out of the gate red hot from downtown in this game, picking up right where they left off in Denver. They built a comfortable lead early in the first quarter, andwere in control for much of the first half. Oklahoma City looked as though their game plan on defense was to throw defenders at Blake Griffin, and they did a pretty effective job, with Griffin looking out of sync in the first half, winding up with only 7 points heading into the break. Unfortunately for OKC, the rest of the Clipper starting lineup picked up the slack. Caron Butler continued his trend of hot starts,racking up 16 points in the first half. The Clippers were on pace to put this game out of reach early, but Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant would not go down without a fight. The freakishly gifted duo scored 37 of the Thunder's 46 first half points, and had a run where they looked unstoppable, getting to the rim with ease hitting some big threes. WIth less than 2 minutes to go in the half, the Clippers hot start was erased, and the lead was cut to 6. And then, the most fun minute and a half in the history of clippers regular season basketball happened.
The Clippers went to an interesting lineup of Deandre Jordan, Caron Butler, Mo Williams, Chauncey Billups, and Chris Paul. 1:21, left in the half, Mo Williams hits a big three. After a Clippers stop, Caron Butler responds with a three of his own at the 0:56 second mark. Another Clippers stop leads to a break for the Clippers, with Mo Williams pulling up for another 3. Heat check: all systems go. 9-0 run by the Clippers. Caron Butler then managed to get a steal so quickly the camera man didn't even catch it. at the 0:33 second mark, Chauncey Billups got in on the fun, knocking down a 4th three point basket, and capping off a 12-0 run to end the quarter. This truly was a dagger, as the Thunder never truly got back into the game.
A lot of credit has to be given to the Clippers. After a remarkable display of shooting (10/14 from deep in the first half), they came out in the third quarter and did not rely on the hot shooting to continue. They kept playing defense, and found ways to get to the rim at the end of the shot clock. In the past (even this season), with about 7 seconds left in the shot clock, the Clippers often settle for a long three or a 19 footer from the top of the key by Griffin. Not the case tonight. The Clips played patient basketball and found a way to execute, essentially putting their foot on the throat of the thunder in the third quarter.
The hot shooting was fun. So were the high flying plays of of Westbrook, Durant, and DJ, all of whom attacked the rim ferociously. But everything else that took place in this game would take a back seat the Dunk Blake Griffin threw down in the third quarter. Following a pick and roll, Chris Paul found Blake Griffin several feet away from the basket. Blake Griffin grabbed the ball, and immortalized Kendrick Perkins in a way that Perk could never do himself. Timofey Mozgov, Frederic Weiss, there is a new member in your club (if the club has meetings, I hope they serve alcohol). If somehow you missed the game, do yourself a favor and go find that play. You will not be sorry.
The Thunder would make a run in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead down to 11. In the past, it would be nervous time for the Clippers, with many of us even doubting Lawler's law. But that's why this season is unlike any other we as Clipper fans have ever had. We have a superstar. A superstar who is every bit as amazing as Kevin Durant. A superstar with ability and will to win a game. When the Clippers needed a hoop and it seemed like they couldn't buy one, Chris Paul came up big, braking down defenders, Scoring 6 big points on a brilliant drive to the hoop, a deep two towards the end of the shot clock with a hand in his face, and step back jumper from about 17 feet that I am convinced is the best in the league. I don't know how long Chris Paul will be a Clipper, but I sure hope its for a long time. What I do know is that I have enjoyed every second of Clippers basketball this season, and Clips nation needs to appreciate this brilliant basketball player and everything that he brings to the game for as long as he's here,because kind of talent does not come along very often.
I'm running behind on time, so just a few quick notes:
NO Ryan Gomes tonight, and it didn't seem like the Clippers missed him very much. More than any other position, the Clippers in my opinion need a backup swing man who can score and play a little D.
Deandre Jordan: DJ played an excellent game. He is really progressing as a basketball player. The offensive repertoire still has room for improvement, but he is clearly a much more confident player this year. He might just earn that contract he signed.
Mo WIlliams: 4-11 tonight, but all four were threes and all 4 felt big. Love having this guy off the bench.
28 assists tonight. Clippers were moving the ball and got a terrific balances scoring attack. They will be a tough team to beat when they play like that. Sharing the ball and executing down the stretch (only 3 threes in the second half and still manged to win by a wide margin). Impressive
Free Throw Shooting: 9 of 15 tonight is right around that season average. Still not good. Thankfully Oklahoma City was only 15-23. I really believe that Griffin can improve his free throw shooting, and doing so will really give the Clippers a boost. It was relatively inconsequential tonight, but in close games those free throws go a long way.
Tweet of the night: "Triple Town, Lob City, 90210ooooooooooh"- @HP basketball