Brandon Rahbar is working on a double secret classified Daily Thunder project this week, so you’re blessed with me for tonight’s recap duty.
I had a take going into this game about how the Thunder are kind of a fun, bizarro grit-n-grind team. They play at such a slow pace behind Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander that the scores are relatively low, but they’re actually better per-possession on offense (where they’re above average) than on defense (where they’re serviceable). So we’ve generally been getting tight contests with more swishes than bricks.
But in games like this when the offense is slow and not clicking? Oof. No fun, just grit and grind.
Until the fourth, when the game came to a messy but exciting close. And to channel my inner Brandon, this was platonic ideal of a 2019-20 Thunder game: play well, keep us intrigued, maintain trade values, and head home with another ping pong ball.
- LOL at Chris Paul riding the razor’s edge between turning the ball over or drawing cheeky fouls in the clutch. Doc Rivers must’ve had his Clippers/Thunder PTSD triggered when CP3 came up with this huge steal and immediately nosedived off of Paul George’s body.
- Double LOL at Apoplectic Doc when the refs called a phantom foul on Danilo Gallinari on the Thunder’s final possession. Unlike in 2015, they reversed the outcome on this one. So we’re Even Steven.
- Reminder for Thunder fans salty about that overturned foul: the hand can be deemed part of the ball during dribbling/gathering.
- Donovan’s ATO game remains strong, getting Gallo the ball with all the daylight and a chance at the game-winner. He came up short, but I liked seeing him run some quick pick-and-roll for a clean look. Aidan Elrod recently pointed out that Gallo should get way more touches of the PnR variety considering his potency when he does.
- The Thunder made Paul George work harder to score than any other team since he’s returned, but he still finished with a strong 18 points on 50% shooting, which included a big 3 to take the lead for good.
- I took a nap ahead of this game so that I wouldn’t risk falling asleep for it. The Clippers fans in attendance could’ve benefited from this strategy.
- Sensing said malaise among midwestern viewers, the referees decided to blow the whistle about twice-per-possession in the third quarter. After a healthy foul disparity in the Thunder’s favor in the first half, Billy Donovan was not happy with the pendulum swinging abruptly back the other direction in the third period.
- Speaking of third quarter frustrations, DT’s Justin Hickey asked Billy Donovan before the game about the Thunder’s struggles coming out of the half. He didn’t sound very convincing in his answer on the subject, and on queue, the Thunder let a 5-point halftime lead turn into a 2-point deficit in the frame.
- I’m a fan of the slithering and Inspector Gadget finishes in the paint, but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander sure does desert the three point line as a ball-handler early and often. He’s been pretty successful hunting scoops, floaters, and mid-range attempts on the whole, but I’d rather he take those shots with a higher degree of difficulty as more of a last resort.
- Granted, when it’s Paul George on your hip, there’s no shame looking for the next level and praying for a more workable switch:
- “Thank you.” – me, when SGA pulled back and hit a three in Montrezl Harrell’s eye.
- Accusations of tanking aren’t registering at more than a whisper right now, but the slowness to get Hamidou Diallo back in the lineup fits with the kind of extreme precautions you take when the playoffs, let a lone title contention, aren’t really a priority.
- But after that Abdel Nader airball on a wide-open three, the league office sent the Thunder a memo.
- Steven Adams is a very good player, but his play down the stretch was symbolic of his place in today’s NBA. His novelty three to open the season was just that; neither he or the coaching staff sound eager for him to actually expand his game much on offense. And he ends up in no-man’s land with certain defensive matchups, over- or under-playing bigs who can shoot (but still capable of rim-running). Harrell blew by him for a dunk to put the Clippers up 84-81. Then he hung back a step too far on the Harrell/George screen that led to that three from George.
- The Clippers showed a tribute video for SGA and Gallinari, who played a grand total of 3 seasons for LA between them.
- In this year of amicable breakups, I think the Thunder will alter team policy and start showing these in-season videos. Russell Westbrook would break the seal in early January, and then the lid will be lifted to extending similar honor to players like George when they come to town as the season continues.
- On the fifth day, God made histrionic defense.
- On the sixth day, He made the rip-through move.
- On the seventh day, Patrick Beverley got got by a Chris Paul rip-through, and it was good.
- The Patrick Patterson renaissance was short-lived.
- The Clippers were at the heart of a massive roster shift in the league this summer, which directly involved the Thunder. I watched their activity intently, and have thought long and hard about their regular season prospects and potential playoff matchups. And yet, I’d never heard of the a guy who started for them at point guard: Terance Mann, second-rounder. Injuries, mann.