Frankly, this loss could be seen from a mile away. The Thunder have more talent on the roster than the Clippers, the game was in Oklahoma City, and the Clippers were on the second night of a back-to-back after playing big minutes in Houston last night. The Clippers continued their spell of abysmal defense, allowing over 120 points yet again, and they just didn’t have the legs to score at that rate.
Lou Williams, who has really struggled with fatigue as the season has drawn on, finished with 18 points, 4 assists, and 5 turnover on 6-16 shooting. DeAndre Jordan was noticeably exhausted as the game went on, ceding 10 offensive rebounds to Steven Adams and letting the Thunder go uncontested at the rim. Sloppy execution led to 21 turnovers for the Clippers, and tired legs led to a 26-6 deficit in fast-break points. It was the story of the game, as Corey Brewer finished with 6 steals and 22 points, mostly on open break-away finishes. Adams scored several times beating Jordan down the floor, and the entire Thunder lineup got into the scorer’s book as a balanced transition attack let them reach 121 points without Russell Westbrook or Paul George eclipsing 20 points, and Carmelo Anthony scoring just 9. Oklahoma City had 30 assists on their 46 made field goals, led by Westbrook with 11 and George with 7.
Still, the Clippers’ effort was valiant. If they were at a point in the season where moral victories sufficed, this would probably be one: fighting to keep a game close on the road against a superior opponent despite being down almost the entire time and exhausted after a similar defeat the night before. It’s the attitude that’s kept these Clippers alive in the playoff race throughout the season, despite the odds being against them at every turn. Austin Rivers was fantastic, spending 39 minutes guarding Westbrook while leading the Clippers’ offensive attack with 23 points on 8-15 shooting (he also stuffed the stat sheet with 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks). Tobias Harris was the game’s leading scorer, posting 24 points to go with his 6 assists and 5 rebounds.
It’s worth noting that Doc Rivers stuck with a short bench, even on the second night of a back-to-back. Sindarius Thornwell seems to have fully supplanted Wesley Johnson as the interim starting small forward, with Johnson not even getting off the bench tonight. Milos Teodosic and Montrezl Harrell stayed in their major roles off of the bench, while Jawun Evans, Boban Marjanovic, and Sam Dekker rounded out the 10-man rotation—but each played less than 10 minutes. Dekker, who had 6 points on 3-3 shooting, was only on the court for a brief 4-minute stint in the first half. Boban, in his spectacular fashion, had 8 points and 7 rebounds in 8 minutes.
The Clippers now face an unfortunate reality: for the first time in weeks, they’ve been knocked back to 10th place in the Western Conference standings, tied in the loss column with Denver at 31, one loss behind Utah and San Antonio, and two losses behind New Orleans, Oklahoma City, and Minnesota. That wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the upcoming schedule: in their last 14 games of the season, the Clippers will play against lottery teams just twice—once of which comes in the last game of the season against the surging Lakers. Six of their next eight games are on the road, including a brutal back-to-back in Minnesota and Milwaukee. LAC has their work cut out for them.