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Thunder 109, Clippers 97

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 12, 2013 at 6:45 pm •  Published: January 23, 2013

Nuggets from my notebook from Tuesday’s win at L.A.

  • You can’t help but wish Chris Paul was available. This game was supposed to be a  matchup of the league’s best two teams, fighting for conference supremacy, battling for bragging rights. It turned into a thumping, a rout in which one fully healthy team simply overpowered a group playing without its best player. Shame.
  • The way the Thunder treated the Clippers in spite of Paul’s absence must be commended. We’ve seen the Thunder take teams lightly and lose when they’re without their best player. Tonight, the Thunder stepped on the Clippers’ throat.
  • OKC never trailed in the second half and led by as many as 17. With or without Paul, that’s quite an accomplishment on the road against a team that still has ample talent.
  • This was a physical game. I’m almost shocked a fight didn’t break out. Caron Butler was playing Kevin Durant super tight. Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison were smothering Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Matt Barnes was being Matt Barnes. But throughout all the pushing and shoving, grabbing and holding, only one technical foul was issued. It was given to Lamar Odom.
  • Early on, it seemed liked Durant was destined for a tech. He was clearly frustrated with how the game was being called. He complained following nearly every shot, voicing his opinion that a foul should have been called.
  • Maybe the physicality, and the Thunder’s two straight wins over the Clippers, will set the stage for a classic finale on March 3. It’s a Sunday showcase game on ABC right back here inside Staples Center. The Clippers aren’t going to want to be swept, and the Thunder might seek to establish some sort of mental edge.
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant goes up for a dunk as Los Angeles Clippers forward Lamar Odom, second from left, defends while guard Jamal Crawford, left, and forward Matt Barnes look on during the second half of their NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, in Los Angeles. The Thunder won 109-97.  (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)  ORG XMIT: LAS107
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant goes up for a dunk as Los Angeles Clippers forward Lamar Odom, second from left, defends while guard Jamal Crawford, left, and forward Matt Barnes look on during the second half of their NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, in Los Angeles. The Thunder won 109-97. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: LAS107
  • With this win, the Thunder wins the season series over the Clippers since it’s only a three-game series this season. That gives OKC any potential tiebreaker over L.A. if the two teams finish tied in the standings. Could be important. Could mean absolutely nothing.
  • Without Paul, it’s hard to not take everything the Thunder did defensively with a grain of salt. In fact, if I’m a Clippers fan I’m encouraged by what I saw tonight. With no Paul, and playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Clippers still managed to make it a fourth quarter game. L.A. lost only when a few bad bounces broke their back. Additionally, Eric Bledsoe, Paul’s replacement, was marginally better than bad, Jamal Crawford barely could buy a bucket and the Clippers 3-point defense was atrocious. Combine all that with the memory of the Clippers’ overtime loss inside Chesapeake Energy Arena, a game in which Paul was uncharacteristically off, and I still have overflowing optimism about matching up with the Thunder if I’m a Clippers fan.
  • But the game isn’t fair. You can only play against who’s out there. So, again, the Thunder deserves some credit for taking care of business. In doing so, OKC held Crawford to 6-for-18 shooting, Bledsoe to 5-for-16 shooting and the Clippers to just eight fast break points.
  • Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro: “They controlled the game pretty much in the second half.”
  • The second unit bounced back in a big way. A huge way. After scoring 18 points at Denver — all by Kevin Martin — the bench had 21 in the first half tonight. The second string was the primary reason OKC took a 49-45 halftime lead.
  • Defensively is where the bench was most impressive. Collison came in for a foul-riddled Perk and rebounded, blocked shots and supplied steady low post defense, Reggie Jackson kept Crawford in check and DeAndre Liggins provided his usual all-around hustle.
  • “We need consistency,” Collison said of the second unit. “We’ve been missing that a little bit this year. So we need consistency where we can not have a drop off defensively. And then offensively we got to be able to find some offense, too.”
  • More from Collison: “It used to be we’d extend leads every time or make a run. But this year it’s been up and down. So we got to get that consistency back with our second group.”
  • With Perk picking up four fouls in seven minutes, Collison had to play a season-high 41 minutes.
  • What you can’t take away from the Thunder tonight is the offensive explosion it erupted for, especially in the second half. Most notably, OKC made a franchise record 15 3-pointers, including five in the fourth quarter. The three straight 3-point bombs midway through the fourth did L.A. in. Two came off offensive rebounds, which Durant promptly fired up again from the top of the arc. The third came on Ibaka’s corner 3 off a drive and dish from Durant.
  • Brooks on the 15 made 3-pointers: “You can’t go into the game expecting that or hoping for that. We just shot the ball well.”
  • If a Thunder player gets an offensive rebound and fires it back to Durant standing at the top of the arc the defense might as well just run the other way. Seems like KD is automatic on those shots. Sensing he shoots those second chance shots, specifically from that spot, with much more confidence I asked him about it after the game. “I always feel I have to shoot that no matter what,” he said. “I’m staring down at the rim and I always feel that puts a dagger in a team no matter what the score is. But when we’re up, especially three or four points, and we get an offensive rebound that kind of deflates the other team. Our bigs do a great job of keeping basketballs alive for us and I just try to do my best at making shots.”
    Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin, below, goes after a rebound along with Oklahoma City Thunder center Kendrick Perkins during the first half of their NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, in Los Angeles.  (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)  ORG XMIT: LAS105
    Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin, below, goes after a rebound along with Oklahoma City Thunder center Kendrick Perkins during the first half of their NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: LAS105
  • If you haven’t seen Caron Butler’s block into official Derek Richardson’s grill, you need to immediately.
  • I feel like there needs to be video of Ibaka’s defense on Blake Griffin, too. I’ve never seen Ibaka do what he did tonight. He literally stuck the top of his head into Griffin’s belly. I’m almost positive that doesn’t fall under fundamentals. Not sure what Ibaka was doing or who taught him to do it, but other than being rather comical it really didn’t serve a purpose.
  • Ibaka also was whistled for two illegal screens late in the game. This coming two nights after three straight illegal screens were called on the Thunder in Denver. You wanted consistency. You got consistency.
  • Late in the fourth quarter, Griffin had more free throw attempts (eight) than the Thunder’s entire team (seven). You won’t see that very often.
  • The Thunder’s 14 free throws attempted were a season low.
  • Up next. At Golden State on Wednesday.

-DM-

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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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