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Thunder shows it's still best in the West

COMMENTARY — The red-hot Clippers came to town, but couldn't beat the defending Western Conference champions.
by Jenni Carlson Published: November 21, 2012

The Thunder isn't ready to concede the Western Conference just yet.

On a night the boys in blue beat the Clippers 117-111 in overtime, they served notice that they are still a force. They didn't get an offseason deal done with super sub James Harden. They didn't bring in a bunch of big-name free agents.

No matter.

The Western Conference title still comes through Oklahoma City.

And the Thunder let that be known by beating the Clippers at their own in-your-face game.

"I thought both teams played extremely hard," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "It was like a playoff game in November."

Offensively, the Thunder drove the lane and went to the basket. That meant lots of good looks, but it also meant plenty of trips to the free-throw line. In the first half when it built up a double-digit lead, Oklahoma City attempted 16 free throws to Los Angeles' five.

Defensively, the Thunder contested looks and blocked shots. Clipper point guard Chris Paul had one of the toughest statistical nights of his career, finishing with only nine points on 2-of-14 shooting, adding nine assists but committing four turnovers.

In the end, the Clippers shot 43.0 percent from the floor.

"You live with that," Brooks said.

Against a team that came in with the best record in the West?

You bet you do.

"Tonight was one of the great games we've played defensively," Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook said.

But the Clippers stayed in this game because the Thunder backed off a little too much. There were spurts in the second half when the boys in blue got passive. There were ill-advised jumpers on the offensive end and wide-open looks on the defensive end.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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