Despite 31 points from Blake Griffin, the Clippers, playing without Chris Paul, fell to Oklahoma City, as the Thunder hit a season-high 15 three pointers. The Thunder now have the best record in the NBA, and the Clippers fall a half game behind the Spurs into third.
Well that was just not fair. Playing against the team with the best record in the league, and playing without their best player, the Los Angeles also ran into a whole slew of red hot shooters. The Oklahoma City Thunder made a season high 15 three pointers, while hitting 56% of them. You can fault poor Clippers perimeter defense if you like, or you can give all the credit to great offense from the Thunder. BUT, those things don't explain Kevin Durant banking in a three straightaway or Russell Westbrook hitting the front of the rim and getting a bounce straight up and in, or Kevin Martin draining a three with not one but two hands in his face. That was just some ridiculously hot shooting, as if the Thunder need to get bounces -- they're already pretty good.
Kevin Durant, the leading scorer in the league, scored 32 points on 19 shots -- and for once he didn't do it with endless trips to the foul line. The Clippers only put him on the line three times before the final 90 seconds when they had to foul, but he made 12-19 shots, and 5-6 threes -- that's an effective field goal percentage of 76%. Ouch.
Even with all of that, the Clippers managed to hang around. The second unit opened the fourth quarter with seven straight to cut a 14 point lead in half -- but that came with Durant on the bench for two minutes. Durant returned, the Thunder hit threes of five of their next six possessions, and the lead was back to 17. Still the Clippers hung around, and had a fast break to cut the deficit to six with 54 seconds left, but Blake Griffin threw a pass out of bounds that ended the team's last dim hope.
The shame of it is that the Clippers wasted a great game from Griffin. He went for 31, 11 and 5, and single-handedly got the entire Thunder front court into foul trouble. The Thunder had absolutely no answer for him, despite supposedly having three very good defensive bigs. Griffin's body control thwarted Serge Ibaka, who could not get a read on him to block a shot, his strength overpowered him, and Kendrick Perkins long ago forgot to do much of anything other than foul.
I'll tell you this much -- the Clippers have no reason to fear this team. I mean, no reason beyond the obvious fact that the Thunder are really, really good. The Clippers may be 0-2 against OKC this season, but Chris Paul only played in one of those games and didn't even play well in that one. Meanwhile, I'll stipulate that the Thunder will beat the Clippers every time they make 56% of 27 three point shots -- but I'll take my chances that it won't happen a lot.
For anyone who cares about such things, this could be the loss that keeps Vinny Del Negro from coaching the Western Conference All Star team. The Clippers are now percentage points behind the Spurs, back in third in the Conference (Scott Brooks coached last season, so the Thunder are not a part of the All Star coach conversation). Gregg Popovich would probably prefer NOT to waste his time with the ASG, so he might try to lose a game or two between now and February third, but if not, San Antonio's upcoming schedule is pretty soft, so it's unlikely the Clippers will be picking up ground on them in the next 10 days.
I don't have a lot more to say about this game. Kevin Durant is awfully damn good, the Thunder shot lights out from three point land, the Clippers were without CP3, and that all adds up to a Clippers loss, despite a monster game from Griffin.
For the OKC perspective, head over to Welcome to Loud City.