Kevin Durant famously thanked his teammates Tuesday upon winning the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award. Durant’s teammates thanked him back Wednesday night in the best way possible.
Durant was his usual phenomenal self, and Russell Westbrook was fantastic, too. But the Thunder popped the Clippers 112-101 with ease because the Thunder cornerstones had help. And lots of it.
Thabo Sefolosha, banished to the ranks of DID NOT PLAY, COACH’S DECISION, only two games ago, scored nine points in a seven-possession span in which the Thunder blew open the game.
Kendrick Perkins was a beast, outscoring and outrebounding Clipper center DeAndre Jordan.
Serge Ibaka outplayed Blake Griffin.
The Clippers can live with Durant and Westbrook flirting with triple doubles. The Clippers can’t live with the Thunder foot soldiers making stellar contributions.
Durant had 32 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. Westbrook had 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. They combined to make 23 of 42 shots.
“What we can’t do is give them that plus everything else,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “That’s what happened tonight. They were the tougher team tonight for sure.”
Everyone saw Westbrook steal the ball on Los Angeles’ opening possession and draw a foul from Chris Paul. But Rivers saw something else.
“They were by far the more physical team,” Rivers said. “It started with the first play of the game. Sefolosha bumps us (J.J. Redick) off our spots.”
Sefolosha’s defense actually was shaky early – Redick scored 14 first-half points – but he shut down Redick in the third quarter, when the Thunder blew open this game. And Thabo lit the fuse, with 14 points, his first game over 10 points since before the all-star break.
Sefolosha’s 3-pointer gave the Thunder an 87-73 lead; a moment later, he swiped the ball from LA’s Jamal Crawford and went all the way for a dunk. And then Thabo stole the inbounds pass, setting up a Westbrook 3-pointer that gave the Thunder a 17-point lead. The rest of the game was just details.