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Thunder 108, Clippers 104

John Rohde Modified: April 12, 2013 at 6:46 pm •  Published: March 4, 2013

Observations from the Thunder’s victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center:

  • This was, by far, the Thunder’s most impressive road victory this season against a quality opponent. Then again, there aren’t a whole lot to choose from, with road losses at San Antonio, Miami, Denver, Boston and Utah. Other notable road wins have been at Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, Portland and the Lakers.
  • OKC beat the Clippers on Jan. 22 at Staples Center, but Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups didn’t play. The Thunder’s second-best road victory probably was Dec. 4 at Brooklyn, but Brook Lopez and Reggie Evans missed that game. On Sunday, the Clippers were at full strength.That said, imagine the anger had the Clippers completed their 19-point comeback on Sunday.
  • Imagine how pleased Thunder folk would be right now had Ty Lawson missed his 21-footer with 0.2 left Friday and the Thunder had managed to win at Denver.
  • Heading into this four-game stretch of Denver-Clippers-Lakers-New York, the Thunder would stabilize itself if it could go 3-1. OKC is now 1-1 and the same holds true. The last six weeks have been anything but stable for OKC.
  • Prior to Sunday, the Thunder was 10-8 overall and 3-7 on the road since an overtime loss at Denver on Jan. 20.
  • In the previous three seasons, OKC had the second-best road record behind San Antonio. The Thunder is now 17-12 away from home. That’s tied for the fifth best road record in the NBA behind San Antonio (23-11), the Clippers (20-12), Miami (17-11) and Memphis (16-11). OKC (26-4) has the league’s fourth-best home record behind Miami (26-3), Denver (25-3) and San Antonio (24-3).
  • You can read about the Serge Ibaka-Blake Griffin incident here. No reason to take up space. My thoughts: It was a physical game, both ways, but I was shocked Ibaka’s foul wasn’t ruled a Flagrant II, given where the target area. It’s a guy thing.
  • Honestly have no idea whether Ibaka potentially could be suspended for Tuesday’s home game against the Lakers. Suspensions are associated with Flagrant II fouls, but the league reviews all flagrant and technical fouls.
  • I asked five very smart people who have been in the league for a long time about what might happen with Ibaka, and not one of them knew for sure, either.
  • Interesting that at a time when Thunder fans are ripping coach Scott Brooks for supposedly not knowing what he’s doing, Denver coach George Karl called Brooks one of the top 10 coaches in the NBA. Karl no doubt plays mind games, but that certainly doesn’t seem the case here.
  • Sunday could mark a metamorphosis for Westbrook. After the game, Brooks shared more information than usual of how important Westbrook is to the team, in the locker room and in the huddle. Westbrook was a huge reason why the Thunder won Sunday.
  • When Westbrook was told what Brooks said, he immediately seemed to relax during his post-game interview session with roughly 20 sweaty reporters huddled around. Westbrook abhors interviews. Hates them with a passion and, trust me, that works both ways. But Westbrook actually smiled twice in Sunday’s session.
  • Here is something I like in Westbrook interviews, however: He is very well-spoken about his teammates. Westbrook doesn’t mind talking about teammates in the least, and it’s hard to criticize someone who prefers to not talk about himself.
  • Maybe, just maybe, Westbrook could hate interviews a little bit less now. Maybe … Nah, forget it. Not happening.
  • The Miami Heat’s “Harlem Shake” video had more than six million hits in a 24-hour span beginning Thursday night. You can find a roundup of NBA Harlem dances here. Alas, there will be no video from the Thunder. Too bad, because Westbrook could have been in charge of wardrobe.
  • Durant on the Thunder doing a Harlem video: “No, I don’t think we’re working on that. I’ve seen the Heat’s. That was the funniest stuff I’ve seen in a while. Once they put it out, it’s kind of tough to follow that act right there. That video’s going to circulating here for a long time. I enjoyed it.”
  • I also asked Westbrook what he thought of the Heat video. No response, just a brief stare down. End of interview. Everyone insists Westbrook has a great sense of humor. He sure hides it well from reporters. Not sure why.
  • Sure do love early Sunday afternoon games. The Thunder should consider having a few, starting next season. The only time OKC plays on a Sunday afternoon is when the game is nationally televised. Speaking of which, the Thunder plays the Boston Celtics at noon next Sunday at Chesapeake Energy Arena in a game on ABC.
  • Other than the Ibaka-Griffin incident, one of the biggest possessions involved Nick Collison when he attempted dunk with 10 seconds left in the third quarter. Three Clippers converged as Collison attempted to dunk with the shot clock about to expire, Griffin being among them. Despite heavy contact, no foul was called. Griffin swatted the ball, which had clearly hit the rim. Thabo Sefolosha rebounded and was about to either shoot a 3 or drive baseline when the shot clock expired. The officials ruled it a violation and did not review it even though it was reviewable.
  • The Clippers then went down and Paul converted a conventional three-point play after jumping into, you guessed it, Collison with 0.5 remaining in the period to pull the Clippers to within 82-73. That’s a potential six-point swing. Collison spoke to the referees, but to no avail.
  • Collison’s thoughts on the play? “I thought it was goaltending.” It was definitely one of three things: a foul; and/or goaltending; neither, with the ball hitting the rim. The refs went 0 for 3.
  • Not sure what it looked like on TV, but this Thunder-Clippers game was intense and physical – playoff-type stuff.
  • Until the Ibaka-Griffin incident, the Thunder had kept its composure extremely well, letting the Clippers do all the barking and not getting coaxed in. Even Kendrick Perkins held off when coaxed by Caron Butler. It wound up being a double-technical, but it happened because of Butler.
  • There were other occasions where the Clippers could have easily been T’d up – Matt Barnes barking at Ibaka after the incident; multiple bitching sessions after calls; slapping the stanchion padding; slamming the ball; stuffing the ball in the official’s stomach – but not one technical for any of these, however.
  • Then again, intensity should have come as no surprise. These two teams lead the NBA in technical fouls this season. The Clippers now have 78 and the Thunder 75.
  • Brooks and Durant were asked about all those technicals. You can read their responses in Monday afternoon’s Thunder Rumblings.
  • Had a brief chat with Kevin Martin after Sunday’s game. He went 4 for 17 from the field in this two-game road trip, but was as approachable as ever. He had an interesting 48 hours between Denver and the Clippers, which he mentioned quietly in passing. You’ll be able to read about it in Tuesday’s Oklahoman.
  • During his pregame interview session, Westbrook was asked two questions that belonged in October, not March. They came from a young Asian reporter who spoke broken English. To his credit, Westbrook answered her politely with responses that he delivered last October.
  • Westbrook on what makes a good point guard: “Win. When you make your team win. That’s all that matters, I think. At the end of the day, if your team wins, that’s all that matters.”
  • Westbrook on getting booed from beginning to end at Denver, yet still finishing with a season-high 38 points: “I didn’t pay no mind to it, to tell you the truth.” Liar.
  • The OKC win ended the Clippers’ four-game winning streak.
  • Next up: The Lakers at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday at The Peake. The Lakers are now 30-30 after squeaking out a 99-98 victory over Atlanta at Staples Center in a game that started roughly 3½ hours after the Thunder-Clippers contest.

- John Rohde

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