The LA Clippers extended their winning streak to six games, with a straightforward 120-106 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday at Staples Center.
Aside from the first few minutes, the Clippers led throughout the game and most of it by double-digits, with a 27-point edge in the 2nd quarter before the Thunder made the deficit a bit more respectable.
The Clippers lined up with their regular starting five this season, including Nicolas Batum, whose wife delivered their second child just a few hours before tipoff. The game being local, the French forward had time to get to Staples Center and put in another good shift, going a perfect 4 for 4 in 3-pointers on the night.
LA raced out to a comfortable lead right off the bat and finished the 1st quarter with a commanding 36-18 edge, Kawhi Leonard hot early when he scored 11 to open the game.
The balance of play remained for the 2nd quarter, with the Clippers cruising and good contributions from pretty much everyone on the floor. The Thunder just weren’t able to keep pace, and while former Clipper Shai Gilgeous-Alexander made some nice plays along the way, this game was firmly in the home team’s control. An Oklahoma City rally of sorts narrowed the Clippers’ lead to 17 at halftime, 70-53. Leonard had 17 points and Paul George 16 to that point.
It wasn’t just the starting unit that was rolling, with Ivica Zubac and Lou Williams doing well on this play and well beyond.
But even with Ty Lue keeping his 9-man rotation in the game into the 3rd quarter, the Thunder rallied for real and pulled within 10 points with just over three minutes in the quarter, Mike Muscala burying a 3-pointer to winnow down the deficit for Oklahoma City.
LA didn’t let it get any closer, however, and the penultimate quarter finished with a 91-78 lead for the Clippers.
With the Thunder not giving up, Lue didn’t turn to the deep bench players until the dying seconds, and the starters played into the final minute of the game.
Leonard scored 31 points on the night and went 10 for 10 from the free throw line, and George had 29. Serge Ibaka paced the Clips with 11 rebounds and Williams led with eight assists on the night.
At the midway point of the 2nd quarter, this one looked like it could be a 50-point blowout win for the Clippers, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. Still, Lue’s core group is playing well, and while I think you can make a good case the schedule of late has been very kind to LA, they’re taking care of business and they can only play the teams in front of them. Right now, things are clicking.
These teams will be right back at it against each other on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center. The Clippers have played one two-game set against the same opponent so far this season, against the Golden State Warriors, and split the results. If that happens this time around, the Clippers and Thunder will have to flip their energy from this game, basically, but we’ll see what happens.