Clippers Come Back And Stun The Thunder
Nuggets from my notebook from Saturday’s 98-92 loss against the Los Angeles Clippers.
- Please. Allow me to be honest. I’m still trying to figure out what happened. By the time most of you read this, I still won’t know.
- This was a demoralizing loss. If you ask me, all that momentum from March is destroyed. To lose to the Clippers, in this fashion, just one night after a tough defeat at Portland, cancels out every bit of steam this team had created. That’s not to say the players’ confidence is not still high. But now there is real work to be done in these last seven games to be able to go into the playoffs feeling good about where this team is and exactly what it’s capable of.
- What makes this loss doubly tough is that the Nuggets are on deck. I dare you to tell me that will be a walk-in-the-park win. Denver has got to be licking its chops right about now, looking at the Thunder as raw meat ready to be cooked on Tuesday night. It’s going to be extremely interesting to see whether the Thunder can salvage something out of this three-game road trip.
- The Nuggets are now just 3 1/2 games behind the Thunder as they prepare to face the Lakers on Sunday afternoon. While the Thunder is still very much in control, the battle for home court advantage in the first round just got much more interesting.
- OK. Let me take a swing at this. The theme in this one was how the Thunder failed to put together four quarters. Couple that with the offensive droughts this team seems more than capable of having, and I don’t think that’s a good recipe going into the postseason. But don’t take my word for it. “We got seven games left and we got to make sure we come out here and get right before the playoffs start because you don’t really just turn it on in the playoffs,” said Kendrick Perkins.
- What was so shocking is that the Thunder played a great first half. And then it all fell apart. Midway through the third quarter, when the Clippers trailed just 57-50, you knew this was just one of those games. The Thunder played around and played around and then it cost them. As Nick Collison said: “That’s kind of been our Achilles’ heel all year, getting leads and letting teams back in. We just have to get better at that. It’s a matter of keeping that focus and not playing differently based on the score.”
- Thunder coach Scott Brooks didn’t sugarcoat it tonight: “We relaxed. They got their confidence going. And once that happens, it’s tough to stop anybody in this league.”
- Russell Westbrook scored just nine points on 1-for-12 shooting. His season-low is eight points. Said Westbrook: “It happens. It’s nights like that. You just got to deal with it and get better.”
- Kevin Durant couldn’t save the team either. He were for 23 points on 10 of 24 shooting. Said Durant: “It’s been like that for the last couple of nights. I just got to fight through it…Hopefully I’m getting all the misses out of the way before the last few games and the playoffs.”
- KD and Russ combined to score just 13 points in the second half…on 4-for-14 shooting. Ouch!
- Am I the only one who thought the Thunder got caught looking ahead?
- Blake Griffin has given Clippers fans a reason to live. That’s the first thing that caught my attention as I walked out of the tunnel toward my media seat just as Griffin was being introduced. I can’t tell you how much of a difference Griffin has made here. There’s a small buzz in the building now. People are excited to see the Clippers. That wasn’t the case as recently as the last visit here on Nov. 3. You have no idea how many times I’ve told a shuttle driver or a hotel valet man or front desk clerk or whoever why I was in town and watched them turn their noses up at me when I told them to go to the Clippers game. Their responses were all the same. The Clippers???
- How about the Thunder getting swept against the Clippers in L.A. this season? Sacramento, Minnesota and Denver are the only other Western Conference teams to be on that list. It’s safe to say OKC and Denver should not be on that list.
- Is there any way I can say Serge Ibaka did a great job on Griffin even though Blake had 26 points and 16 rebounds? I’m going to do it any way. Ibaka’s length really bothered Blake all night. All Griffin could do in the post was turn sideways and throw up a shot from his hip.
- And the refs bailed out Griffin on at least two plays that Ibaka got clean blocks on.
- Speaking of the refs, looking at the foul count tonight: Thunder 29, Clippers 19.
- Durant admitted that the technical fouls in the third quarter took something out of the team: “With the way the game was going, they were kind of on their way back and I think those techs just pushed them over the top,” Durant said.
- Brooks didn’t mind the techs: “This is an emotional game,” he said. “I’m not disappointed with our guys showing their emotion. But we have to do a better job of restraining ourselves.”
- I really don’t have anything else. I’d be shocked if the Thunder didn’t blow out these boys next week. It might be a small measure of how good OKC really is.
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