Quite a victory for the Thunder, a 104-98 elimination of the Clippers on Thursday night. But it didn’t come easily, and the grades reflect it.
A Kevin Durant
So that’s what valuable looks like. Serge Ibaka injured and out for most of the second half. Russell Westbrook struggling. And Durant himself off to a rough start. But Durant caught fire and played like a demon: 39 points, 16 rebounds, five assists.
The Clippers made seven of their first 12 shots, three of their first four 3-pointers and spurted to 30 first-quarter points. But LA scored just 68 points the rest of the way. The Clippers finished shooting just 42.1 percent from the field, including six of 21 on 3-pointers.
C Defensive rebounding
After keeping the Clippers off the boards through most of the first five games, the Thunder wilted in Game 6. The Clippers had 18 offensive rebounds, which they turned into 17 second-chance points. But OKC stiffened late; the Clippers had just two offensive boards in the fourth quarter, and one came in the meaningless last five seconds.
C Westbrook emotions
Strange game for Russell. He made just four of 15 shots, and the Clips kept him out of the lane for much of the game. The first quarter got away from the Thunder during three straight poor possessions, all courtesy of Westbrook. Westbrook committed a frustration foul, his second, and had to sit out 8:51 of the first half. But Westbrook returned to dish seven third-quarter assists; he finished with 12. To go with 19 points.
A Celebrity watch
Clipper standards Penny Marshall and Billy Crystal were in attendance. But Laker zealot Jack Nicholson sat courtside, so you know this was a big game. Rihanna was back, this time with pink hair. Oscar De La Hoya made the Kiss Cam. Tony Romo and Matt Damon showed up. David Hasselhoff participated in a timeout trampoline routine. And former Clipper Eric Gordon, traded to New Orleans in the deal that brought Chris Paul, sat on the baseline, much to the delight of a Clipper fan on the fourth row wearing a No. 10 Gordon Clipper jersey. But the best sighting was Jaleel White, who you will know better as Steve Urkel from “Family Matters.” White still can pass for Urkel, a character he hasn’t played in 16 years.
B Brooks rotations
Scotty Brooks again had to juggle his lineup, due to foul trouble. Brooks found a winning fivesome with Durant, Westbrook, Nick Collison, Steven Adams and Reggie Jackson. But Brooks struggled in the first half, playing Derek Fisher 13:23 and Thabo Sefolosha just 6:26. Sefolosha had five points in the first 31/2 minutes but played just 12 minutes total. Meanwhile, Fisher, after sinking his first two shots in the second quarter, missed five straight in a span of 7:07, including two air balls on 3-point shots, squelching some hard-earned momentum.
B Durant mid-range
A game after going 0-of-11 on shots outside the restricted but inside the 3-point circle, Kevin Durant again struggled early with his mid-range game. Durant made just one of six mid-range shots in the first half. But Durant warmed up in the second half and made four of six.