After all the hoopla surrounding All-Star Weekend and all the hype hovering over Blake Griffin's homecoming, Tuesday night's game between the Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers boiled down to a bunch of role players.
While the Thunder's All-Stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, labored through sour shooting nights, the team's supporting cast carried it to a 111-88 win.
Jeff Green shook off early foul trouble to score a team-high 22 points to lead the Thunder, while reserve guard James Harden added 19 points off the bench. Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka, meanwhile, joined forces with Green to make things tough on Griffin, the former OU and Oklahoma Christian School star who is so good his final line — 28 points on 9-for-15 shooting with 11 rebounds and eight assists — still read like he dominated.
Durant and Westbrook combined to score 34 points on 32 shots. But they helped break open the game and turn it into a blowout.
Led by its All-Star duo, the Thunder closed the second quarter on a 15-0 run to turn a one-point lead into a 62-46 margin at the half. Five players scored during the decisive run. Durant had four points. Westbrook had two points and assisted on another three baskets.
The Clippers never got closer than nine. They would trail by as many as 26.
“Our bench did a good job of helping us win tonight,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “That's how we play. That's what we have to continue to do, focus on all guys participating in our wins.”
Oddly enough, other than the cold shooting by the All-Star tandem, the Thunder was as sharp as it has been all season despite a weeklong respite. OKC tied its season low with just seven turnovers, which the Clippers turned into just two points.
Westbrook, who was held to 13 points as he went 3-for-11 from the field, had seven assists against only two turnovers.
“Russell missed a lot of opportunities around the basket,” Brooks said. “He wasn't getting fouled and he wasn't making his layups tonight. But he did a pretty good job of leading our team.”
And Durant was dialed in defensively, adhering to his assignments effectively and playing the passing lanes well (two steals) while doing a great job of crashing the glass (eight rebounds).
“Me and Russ didn't make shots that we wanted to make, but I think we made up for it,” Durant said. “We wanted to go in there and do some other things.”
The Thunder outscored the Clippers 39-23 in the second quarter and 33-21 in the final frame. OKC never trailed after taking a 21-19 lead on a 3-pointer by Durant with 1:50 remaining in the opening quarter. Every starter but Green was able to sit out the fourth period and rest up for tonight's game at San Antonio, a perfect way to start the final stretch of the season.
“There's always a concern,” Brooks said of how his team might respond after the long layoff. “But I think that concern was wiped away (Monday) at practice … That practice told me and our team that we were ready to play.”