Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul had one of the worst statistical nights of his career in Wednesday night's 117-111 overtime loss to the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena, shooting 2 for 14 from the field (0 for 3 from 3-point range) and finishing with nine points, nine assists and four turnovers.
Paul was hounded defensively from the outset, first by OKC defensive ace Thabo Sefolosha and later by point guard Russell Westbrook, who was defending Paul when he missed a potential game-winning, turnaround 14-footer at the end of regulation.
“They let him guard me with his hands all night,” Paul said of Sefolosha. “It's one of those things where I shouldn't have let him off the hook. I should have been a little bit more aggressive.”
Sefolosha frequently is used against point guards who excel at the pick-and-roll. Paul pretty much excels at everything, but not Wednesday.
“You try not to give him anything easy,” Sefolosha said of defending Paul. “You've got to put pressure on him. If he gets too much space, he definitely is going to pick the defense apart. Again, I rely on a lot of help from our bigs, and they did a great job.”
When Paul's poor statistics were mentioned, Sefolosha shrugged and said: “There's no time to relax, no time to look at what he's doing on the stat sheet or whatever.”
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he has noticed former Oklahoma standout Blake Griffin has become a more efficient player since Paul's arrival, but Griffin's improvement also comes with experience and maturity.
Told Brooks' assessment, Paul agreed, but said there is still work to do.
“No question,” Paul said. “Me and Blake have to do a better job of having our synergy down pat. A lot of times I'm going to make two people guard me and I'm going to hit him. We have to start playing off of each other better.”
BARNES VS. PERKINS
More opponents are standing up to the intimidating tactics of Thunder center Kendrick Perkins. Clippers forward Matt Barnes was his latest challenger. The two got into three minor scuffles Wednesday, but no technical fouls were called.
Afterward, Barnes was perfectly composed and said it's all part of the game.
“Hey, that's playoff-type basketball,” Barnes said. “We're all men out here. We're not trying to hurt each other, but sometimes games are going to get physical if the refs let it get physical. You kind of play the way the game is called.”
The Thunder has beaten the Celtics three straight times at TD Garden and were without Kevin Durant (leg injury) two years ago. Durant had 37 points (15 for 15 at the free-throw line) at Boston three seasons ago. In OKC's last visit in January, Durant scored 28, Westbrook scored 26 and Sefolosha scored 19 in a 97-88 win. … The Thunder is shooting .844 from the free-throw line. The NBA single-season team record is .832 by the 1989-90 Celtics. … Boston ranks last (30th) in rebounding this season at 35.8 per game, but is third in assists (23.8) thanks to point guard Rajon Rondo (13.3).
Griffin on the playoff atmosphere at The Peake on Wednesday night: “It's going to be a great atmosphere every time you play a team like that, every time you play here. The fans are great, but that can't affect us, the way we play or how we play.”