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Nuggets from my notebook from Wednesday's win against the Clippers

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 10, 2014 at 11:30 am •  Published: April 10, 2014

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook drives past Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul, rear, and Blake Griffin, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook drives past Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul, rear, and Blake Griffin, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Big win by the Thunder…

  • The finish wasn’t pretty, but the Thunder got the job done. And that’s really all that matters.
  • OKC is now virtually a lock to go into the playoffs as the 2 seed, which would guarantee the Thunder homecourt advantage in the first two rounds and against these same Clippers should they meet in the semifinals.
  • With the Thunder now owning a 2 1/2 game lead, L.A. would have to win its final three, and the Thunder would have to lose at least two of its final four, for the Clippers to claim second place. That’s not going to happen.
  • “It’s a big win,” said Russell Westbrook. “Both teams were looking forward to this matchup. They were trying to see if they could make it to 2, and we were making sure we wasn’t going to drop.”
  • The Thunder led by as many as 17 points and had a lead as large as 16 in the final frame. The Clippers’ last lead disappeared six minutes into the opening period. So regardless of the final seven minutes or so, this was an authoritative victory, one that reminded the Clippers and everyone else just how powerful the Thunder is when at full strength.
  • L.A. was without Jamal Crawford, which was a big loss. He missed his fifth straight with a calf/Achilles injury. He’s a difference-maker for the Clippers, so you can’t ignore his absence. Still, the way the Thunder turned it up tonight defensively, I doubt he would have been the difference.
  • For the first time since Feb. 20, and just the second time since Christmas, the Thunder had its full complement of players. It’s customary starting unit was intact and, against an elite team, the defense looked tons better. But it started with Russell Westbrook.
  • Westbrook was a menace all night, on both sides of the ball. He attacked the Clippers defense with drives and pull-ups and attached himself to Paul as best he could, helping to hold the game’s best point guard in check through three quarters, and disrupted several Clippers plays by successfully playing the passing lanes. Westbrook took it to another level tonight, and from the start he carried the Thunder to this win.
  • “You just got to come out with a ‘Why not” mindset,” Westbrook said. “That’s kind of how I think. Sometimes you got to just let it all hang out, and that’s what we did.”
  • Westbrook scored 30 points with 11 rebounds and six assists. He made 12 of 24 shots, had two steals and just one turnover.
  • The way Westbrook played only confirmed my belief: the Clippers are not a serious threat to the Thunder. They’re good. They might even take a potential series six games. But  the Thunder has counters for what the Clippers do best. The Clippers can’t control the Thunder’s best two options, and those are Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
  • Durant had a horrible shooting night, scoring 27 points on 26 shots, and the Clippers still were getting blown out in their own building. And even though everyone else on the Thunder was relatively quiet, the Clippers simply didn’t have an answer for No. 0. Now imagine when No. 35 joins the party and the defense plays like if did throughout the better part of tonight’s 48 minutes. Give me Thunder in 6.
  • The fourth quarter, though, was like seeing a ghost. It made you think about all the reasons this team could still struggle, against anyone in the postseason. The Thunder makes the game too difficult. It relies on its stars too much. When the Clippers were making their run, the Thunder’s offense was stuck in mud. It was one Westbrook isolation after one Durant isolation. I don’t know if it was by design so to speak or if the two just took it upon themselves to bail out their team. But it wasn’t pretty, and it made things more interesting then they needed to be down the stretch.
  • Durant even admitted the Thunder wasn’t doing much special. “We just simply played hard,” he said. “It’s no schemes. It’s no techniques. We just made the championship type of play.”
  • Westbrook delivered two of those championship plays. His putback dunk off KD’s miss with two minutes remaining gave the Thunder some much-needed breathing room. He later flew in for another offensive rebound off Serge Ibaka’s missed jumper, got fouled and converted one of two free throws.
  • Westbrook: “I try to do whatever it is to help us win. I seen all night they were just kind of watching, and I was just waiting on my time to go to the glass because they’re an aggressive team in transition. So I wasn’t trying to go to the glass today. They lead the league in offense. I just tried to find the right time to do it.”
  • That set the Thunder ran for Ibaka on that play was a thing of beauty.
  • Durant’s shot with 1:32 left was just ridiculous. He was 7-for-25 from the floor before draining that step-back, shot-clocking winding, contested 3. And he just drilled it like it was nothing.
  • KD explains: “I’m one of those guys that no matter what happens my team needs me to be aggressive late in the games. They need me to shoot the ball and make the right play. So they trust me to take those shots. I’m going to keep shooting no matter what. I could be 0-for-100 and it’s the end of the game but I’m going to let it fly and not going to care if I miss. That’s a part of my growth. I’ve missed so many of those shots late in games, but I’ve learned from them. And when the opportunity’s there I just try to take advantage of it. And tonight I was able to hit one.”
  • Ibaka did a great job contesting J.J. Redick’s final shot.
  • Thabo Sefolosha did what I didn’t think he would do. He switched over to Paul midway through the third and into the fourth. He didn’t think he did a very good job, but as I told him, we’ve seen this team’s defense, particularly against players like Paul, without him. He did a fantastic job.
  • Sefolosha said he feels good. “I really took my time to come back, to be as close as possible to 100 percent as far as how it feels, and I think I’m in a good spot,” he said. “I’m happy with the way it feels. I can play and not think about it. That’s the main thing.”
  • Sefolosha played 24 minutes tonight after playing 15 on Tuesday at Sacramento. That was sort of unexpected, but it’s also a sign of how confident the team feels in letting him loose.
  • The Clippers’ athleticism under the rim is amazing. Their highlight dunks get all the attention, and for good reason. But the way the work you over on the glass and use their leaping ability to get rebounds they’re not supposed to is something else.
  • Nick Collison won a jump ball over Blake Griffin. They should have stopped the game there.
  • You could tell Steven Adams was much more comfortable in his fourth and final look at the Clippers. He was way better this time than in his last visit to Staples to play the Clips. He had seven points, seven rebounds and a blocked shot. He did most of his damage in the second quarter. “I felt a lot more comfortable,” Adams said. “It’s easy when the starting five does a really good job. They did a great job of coming out and locking down on defense. So that kind of set the standard. I was just watching Perk the whole time. I was seeing what he was doing on defense, and I just tried to bring the same thing.”
  • The Thunder left some shooters open, and the Clippers couldn’t make OKC pay, going 8-for-27 from deep. This one could have looked a lot worse if L.A. knocked down some of those looks.
  • One night after turning it over a season-low six times, the Thunder had just eight turnovers tonight.
  • Caron Butler streak of games with at least one made 3 ended tonight at 14. Should have saved some from Sacramento.
  • Doc Rivers called KD the MVP.
  • Up next: New Orleans on Friday.
by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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