On a night when the Thunder looked allergic to defensive stops, Oklahoma City had a brief stretch of reprieve.
And it came in a unique way.
In the middle of third quarter, during a desperate time, coach Scott Brooks went to the “Hack-A-Jordan,” fouling Clippers center DeAndre Jordan intentionally on four straight possessions. Jordan, a 42 percent foul shooter this season, went 1-of-8 at the line.
“It can always help when needed,” Brooks said after a 122-105 loss to the Clippers on Monday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. “We were down 20-something points. Any time you have that opportunity, you can use that against them. He shot 42 percent for the season.”
But despite Jordan's struggles, Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers said he will lean toward leaving Jordan on the court during those times.
“He’s our guy,” Rivers said. “Listen, even when he misses, he gets stops on the other end. I don’t know how much of an advantage it gives teams. There’ll be nights where you may have to take him out. There’ll be nights where you keep him in. They’ve done it all year. Teams are gonna keep doing it.”
IBAKA GETS TECHNICAL
In the middle of the third quarter, as he fell to the ground, the Clippers’ Blake Griffin seemed to wrap his legs around the ankle of a nearby Serge Ibaka.
Moments later, a frustrated Ibaka kicked Griffin's leg away from his, leading to a technical on Ibaka.
BROOKS ON WHY THABO RETURNED TO STARTING LINEUP
One of the key reasons the Thunder escaped a competitive series with Memphis was coach Scott Brooks’ surprising starting lineup change – replacing mainstay Thabo Sefolosha with recently acquired Caron Butler.
“After Game 5, it was disappointing we lost that game and I thought we needed a switch,” Brooks said. “We needed to generate some more points against Memphis’ style of play.”
But facing a more offensively potent and up-tempo Clippers team this round, Brooks went back to Sefolosha in the starting lineup. As Brooks explained, it was a matchup decision, with Sefolosha’s defense on J.J. Redick a key factor.
“The Clippers, obviously, they can score 120 quickly,” Brooks said. “So we need Thabo. His strength is defense, and J.J. Redick’s strength is first quarter scoring. He comes off pin downs like the energizer bunny, never stops moving. Thabo has done a good job in the past against those kind of players. He gives us the best chance to contain.”
LEBRON ON DURANT’S MVP
LeBron James of the Miami Heat says Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant would be a deserving winner of the NBA MVP award.
It’s expected that Durant will be announced as this season’s MVP on Tuesday. James has lauded Durant’s play this season several times in recent weeks, doing so again on Monday.
“Much respect to him and he deserves it,” James said. “He had a big-time MVP season.”
James is a four-time winner of the league’s MVP award, taking the honor in each of the previous two seasons.
With all the controversy stirring around the Clippers, some have started referring to them as America’s team.
“Can you tell the Oklahoma fans that?” Doc Rivers joked. “I don’t buy into that. I mean, that’s all nice and good. Listen, if we are, that’s great. I think you have to earn that title.”
Then Rivers backed off the last part of that statement, taking a not so subtle shot at the Dallas Cowboys.
“Though I don’t know if some of the teams that call themselves America’s team have earned that title,” Rivers said. “Stop right there. I’m a Bears fan. I think you have to earn that. We haven’t done enough yet to earn that. It’d be great to some day get that title.”
BACK TO BASKETBALL
For the past week-plus, as the Clippers tried and succeeded in getting by the Warriors in the first round, they were also dealing with a national controversy and media storm.
But as the second round gets underway, the buzz has died a bit.
“I think we’re done with that,” Rivers said. They’ll be a bombshell or something at some point. Our guys are focused on basketball, and it’s so nice that that’s what we’re talking about.”
But it’s still fresh enough news that Brooks was asked about how much he followed the Donald Sterling drama the past few weeks. He was very complimentary of how Rivers handled it.
“As well as any coach in this league could handle a tough situation,” Brooks said. “He represented the Los Angeles Clippers and his players well, but he also represented the other 29 teams well. We’re proud of what he did and what the players did and what they stood for.”
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Before Monday night, in the regular season or playoffs, Chris Paul had never hit more than five threes in a game. By halftime, he had six. By the end of the third quarter, he had eight.
Game 2 comes on Wednesday night in Oklahoma City. The Thunder will be looking for a huge bounceback. Tip is at 8:30 Oklahoma time on TNT.