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.
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.
Can't do that against these Clippers.
They are a scary bunch. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin still lead the way with DeAndre Jordan, Willie Green and Matt Barnes riding shotgun, but it's the reserves who make this team scarier than it was a year ago. The Clipper bench is crazy deep.
Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford come off the bench. Ditto for Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins. Each of those guys could start for many teams in the NBA.
Oh, and Caron Butler and Grant Hill are hurt right now.
That gives Los Angeles a dozen very capable players when they're all healthy. There's no other team in the league that can boast as much depth as that.
What's more, the Clippers are aggressive at every position, much like the Grizzlies, and we know how that game against Memphis turned out.
The Thunder played well for about three quarters when the Grizzlies came to town last week.
“But it wasn't enough,” Brooks said.
Not even close.
The Grizzlies took it to the Thunder, stretching the lead and winning going away.
The Clippers could've done the same Wednesday night because of all the challenges they present. Their point guard play. Their interior defense. Their transition game. Their free-throw shooting.
“But,” Brooks said, “we're pretty good ourselves.”
That, the Thunder is, and it proved as much against the Clippers.
"I really like our guys' fight throughout this game," Brooks said. "I didn't see an area where we played passive. We played aggressive. I thought our toughness was on display the entire 48 minutes and the five minutes of overtime."
Westbrook said, "They made some tough shots. They made a few runs. We withstood their runs."
Los Angeles is unbelievably good, but Oklahoma City is still home to the Western Conference champs.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.