What a game. Neither team ever led by double digits, and neither team made a huge run. But the Thunder made more plays, pulled off a 118-112 victory and the grades reflect it.
Star power: A. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were superb. Westbrook couldn’t make baskets early, but he was passing well. Then he found his shot and scored nine points the final 90 seconds of the first half. Westbrook finished with 23 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds. He was in triple double territory most of the second half but didn’t get a fourth-quarter rebound. Meanwhile, Durant was as smooth as he’s ever been. He scored 15 points (on 5-of-7 shooting) in the first quarter to help stave off a shaky start. He scored eight points (4-of-6 shooting) to give the Thunder a big third-quarter boost. Then Durant opened the fourth quarter with a couple of circus shots. Durant finished with 36 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Starters: C. Scotty Brooks was limited in his use of the starting five, which got in quick foul trouble. Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha each had two fouls in the first 4:04 of the game. When Brooks went back to his starters late second quarter, the unit lasted just 33 seconds, because Ibaka got foul No. 3. But the starters played the first 7:04 of the third quarter and outscored LA 15-9 to give the Thunder a 76-72 lead.
Game experience: C. From the public-address announcer calling Thabo Sefolosha “THAY-bo,” to the crowd not really exploding to runs the way fans do in Memphis or San Antonio or Dallas, to handing out red T-shirts on the concourse instead of having them waiting at every seat, the Clippers’ operation was substandard to the normal playoff atmosphere. Cut the Clippers some slack. Donald Sterling’s been banished just 10 days.
Bench: A. Finally, the Thunder reserves asserted themselves. Caron Butler scored 14 points and made three of five 3-pointers. Three times in the fourth quarter Butler made go-ahead 3-pointers. Reggie Jackson was saddled by foul trouble but was superb during his 31 minutes, constantly driving the lane and finishing at the rim. Jackson finished with 14 points. Steven Adams had nine rebounds. And the Thunder bench, with Durant on the court, keyed a surge to start the second quarter that gave OKC the lead. The Thunder bench outscored the Clipper bench 34-28. Jamal Crawford score 20 points for LA but made just six of 20 shots.