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Blame the Thunder's failure to get back on defense for loss to Clippers

This game was not complicated. The Thunder didn't get back on defense, and it fueled the Clippers all day long.
by Berry Tramel Published: February 23, 2014

Six seconds after Jamal Crawford grabbed the game's first rebound, his Clipper teammate, Matt Barnes, drilled a 3-point shot.

On this Sunday, that constituted slowdown offense for the Clips. The Thunder lost 125-117 because it failed to master one of the fundamentals of the sport.

Get back on defense.

The Clippers had 27 fastbreak points in the first half alone, en route to a 72-66 halftime lead. The Clippers made 27 shots in the first half; 11 of those came six seconds or less into a possession.

This game was not complicated. The Thunder didn't get back on defense, and it fueled the Clippers all day long.

“We really couldn't get ourself in front of them,” Russell Westbrook said. “They was beating us down the floor early. Kind of gave them some confidence.”

You think? The Clippers shot 66 percent in the first half. By game's end, all five LA starters had scored at 18 points, led by Crawford (36) and Barnes (24), who aren't even the Clipper superstars.

And you would be hard-pressed to blame the absence of Kendrick Perkins, sidelined by a groin strain. The Thunder's defensive anchor figured to be a noticeable void against the pick'n rolls of Chris Paul, but no reason to pick or roll when you can just hustle downcourt and get an open shot quickly.

“We didn't do a great job communicating tonight, as far as transition,” Perkins said. “Who a guy had. We was trying to find our man instead of finding a man.”

The Clippers love to run, especially their big guys. Six-foot-11 DeAndre Jordan twice beat the Thunder downcourt for dunks and added a three-point play off a fastbreak. All in the first quarter.

Blake Griffin found easy points, too. Barnes ran to open spots on the perimeter and was ready to fire. Twice he had 3-pointers in transition.

The Clippers made 13 of 14 shots taken within the six seconds that define fastbreaks. In non-fastbreak shots, the Clippers made 29 of 67 shots.

Total meltdown for the Thunder, which likes to brag about its defensive mentality, usually for good reason.

Scotty Brooks was so frustrated, he thrice called for intentional fouls on Jordan, a notoriously bad foul shooter. It was good strategy. On those three trips to the line, Jordan made two of six. On the Clippers' other 26 second-quarter possessions, they scored 42 points.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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