April 11, 2012; Oklahoma City OK, USA; Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin (32) speaks to small forward Caron Butler (5) during the first quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena Mandatory Credit: Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE
Well then... My heart is still racing. After Kevin Durant nailed the tough-to-swallow 3 pointer to tie it at 98-98, Chris Paul did some Chris Paul things and snaked his way to the basket and laid the ball in with 8.8 seconds left in the 4th, giving the Clippers a 100-98 lead and the eventual win. Watching him play is unbelievable, and seeing the Los Angeles Clippers give the Oklahoma City Thunder their 6th loss at home is just as unbelievable. The Clippers played a great game with cut-throat defense that will win them games in the playoffs just as they won this one. More after the jump, and you can find the NBA.com box score by clicking these amazing blue words.It's easy to see why the Thunder are picked to play in the finals this year. They play a fast paced game led by Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook who are backed by James Harden and Serge Ibaka, who also happens to lead the league in blocks per game. At any moment, they can go off and grab a double digit lead before you know it. As such, it wasn't surprising to see the Thunder have an 11 point lead in the 2nd quarter off of a Derek Fisher 3-pointer. In fact, the Thunder were in the lead with 9:03 left in the 1st quarter up until a Chris Paul 3-pointer in the 4th quarter put the Clippers ahead 92-89 with 5:03 left in the game. The Clippers then led the rest of the game (sans the Kevin Durant 3 that tied the game) and the rest is history.
Speaking of Chris Paul, he played one impressive game. He didn't play like his usual assist-toting self (he actually had 2 more boards than assists), but brought out his inner beast and scored a remarkable 31 points and closed out the game in a wonderful fashion. It was quite refreshing to see Chris Paul play this well, as he has been in a little slump as of late.
The story of the game should be the Clippers defense, however. Yes, game winners by Chris Paul are wonderful, but defense was the key to winning this game. The Clippers started off the game slowly, and at times they looked almost lackadaisical on both ends of the court. Recurring visions of the abysmal defensive rebounding in the previous Memphis game kept popping up in my head as Oklahoma kept grabbing offensive rebound after offensive rebound early in the game. The Clippers got it together in the 2nd half however, and ended up grabbing one more offensive board than the Thunder, one which was an amazing tip-back from Chris Paul after he missed his own shot late in the 4th quarter.
The Clippers lock-down defense on the inside also held the Thunder to 40.8%, almost 7% below their season average, but it was overshadowed by the Thunder's ridiculously abnormal and insanely hot 3 point shooting (46.2%!) which kept them in the lead throughout the game. The Clippers didn't take it to mind though, and responded to Oklahoma's 3 point shooting with a season high 90.5% free throw shooting, going 19-21 from the Charity Stripe and shooting 47% from the field. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were also held below their usual percentages, thanks to the Clippers defense. Wussell Restbwook shot 21% and got 13 of his 20 points from free throws, and the Durantula was held to 33% and 22 points.
As mentioned earlier, the Clippers were a little slow offensively at the start of the game. Kenyon Martin kept the Clippers in the game throughout the first half with little skyhooks and mid-range jumpers. Kenyon and Nick Young scored a combined 22 points off the bench, and ended up closing the game together until DeAndre Jordan entered the game for Nick Young with 1:01 left in the 4th quarter. The Clippers offense turned on in the 2nd half, and included with it was a trademark Blake Griffin posterizing dunk against a player on the Thunder. Kendrik Perkins was nowhere to be found when Blake dunked the ball, however. Serge Ibaka took the bullet this time as his face was slammed into Blake's chest as he threw the ball down. It was glorious.
The Clippers played a great game of basketball. Truthfully, I thought that the Clippers would get blown out again, especially after seeing Memphis toy with the Clippers on Monday. I was pleasantly surprised, however, and was treated with a heart attack of a game that ended up with the Clippers winning. This game was bitter-sweet, however. The Los Angeles Lakers won in San Antonio without a Kobe Bryant, and the Memphis Grizzlies beat the Phoenix Suns tonight, so the Clippers are exactly where they were in the Western Conference standings 2 days ago; half a game ahead of Memphis and a game and a half behind the Lakers. A win was absolutely critical tonight, however, so it wasn't all for naught.
The Clippers head to Minnesota tonight to play against the Minnesota Timberwolves tomorrow, with hopes of not getting swept by the sub-.500 Timberwolves. I like to think of the Clippers-Timberwolves as the Heat-Bucks West, which seems suiting as the sub-.500 Bucks almost swept the playoff bound Heat in the East. The Heat did avoid getting swept by the Bucks, however, and that win was also on a 2nd day of a back-to-back. Coincidence? I think not.