Everyone can breathe now. The Thunder got a much needed win against the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night in Oklahoma City.
Rather than just taking turns and making sure everyone got equal shots, the OK3 finally played in a way that made each other better. Paul George was fantastic with 42 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. Carmelo Anthony took a back seat, taking just 12 shots and finishing with 14 points. Russell Westbrook came out aggressive. The Thunder was scoreless for over the first three minutes, and then Russ exploded to the rim for an and-1, lighting the Peake on fire.
Overall the OK3 looked more comfortable on the offensive end than they had in any of the past games. They were leveraging their own talent to help each other. Doc Rivers put it well post game, “It’s hard because they have so many options. A lot of times you have the one-two option, but they have the one-two-three option.”
The Thunder finally get win over a Western Conference foe. The Clippers were short-handed, playing without Patrick Beverly and Danilo Gallinari, but at this point the Thunder needed to show any sign of life as an offense. The ball moved more, players moved more, and the Thunder were able to put up 120 in regulation.
There were lapses where the ball stuck and ISO ball ensued. Those were also the moments where the Clippers were able to claw back, at one point down 20, to tie the game. The difference was Billy Donavan was able to get the offense back on track. Paul George was especially active off ball tonight.
WELCOME TO OKC, PAUL GEORGE
We all knew this “The Thunder may have lost the Paul George Trade” Twitter chatter couldn’t continue. Paul George broke out in a big way.
What really stood out is that he finally got the free throw line with regularity and went 12-15. His aggression was the major difference in the Thunder offense. He was fantastic running off screens while playing with Russ and Melo, and had the ball in his hands most of the time with the second unit.
Dakari Johnson? Dakari Johnson!
Adams was a late scratch from the starting lineup due to a calf contusion and Billy Donvan declined to tell the media who would start at his pre-game press conference. A few minutes before tip it was revealed that it would be Dakari Johnson.
First thought: Will DeAndre Jordan have a 20-20 game?
Nope. Dakari was great in his role. Set great screens, played impressive defense, and even hit a dagger mid-range jumper to seal the win. He was unexpectedly good.
Alex Abrines is alive!
Alex Abrines finally got some touches tonight, going 4 of 5 from the field for 14 points. His ability to space the floor and move without the ball will be vital to the Thunder having a consistently good offense through four quarters.
Abrines was able to get involved primarily because of ball movement. He doesn’t let the ball stick when he is guarded — he moves it. The three games prior to the Clippers, the ball stuck with PG, Melo or Russ when Abrines was on the floor. In fact he only took four shots over that span, including none against Denver. The Thunder was making the extra pass on Friday night, and they made the Clippers pay with Alex Abrines going 3 of 4 from three.
Andre Roberson playing his role
Andre Roberson has had a shaky start to the season. His shot hasn’t been falling, and his defense has been up and down. He was fantastic against the Clippers.
His defense was smothering and his aggression on the boards (11, including 5 offensive) was much needed with Steven Adams out. He didn’t hang around the perimeter as much, he was mostly hanging on the baseline which led to his offensive boards and two put backs. He played fantastic defense on Lou Williams and protected the rim with a few vertical plays. It was the Andre many were hoping for.
Limiting the Clippers Big Men
The Thunder was very aggressive defending DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. Jordan seemed poised for a big night with Steven Adams out, but he finished with 9 points and 12 rebounds. Credit to Dakari Johnson, Jerami Grant, and Andre Roberson for playing physical and keeping Jordan off the offensive glass.
The Thunder threw a lot of looks at Blake Griffin. Melo, Paul George, and Jerami Grant all played him well. Blake was really aggressive trying to get to the rim, yet finished 5 of 19 for 17 points and only 6 total free throws. The Thunder did a great job defending him in the post and contesting his threes.
- I’m still shocked Dakari Johnson played in an NBA game and played well.
- Blake Griffin signaled horns down while being announced in the starting lineup.
- Former Oklahoma State guard Jawun Evans played some good minutes for the Clippers. He is feisty.
- Patrick Patterson continues to struggle. He only played 11 minutes and finished with a rebound and an assist.
- Josh Huestis played some valuable minutes. Defended multiple positions and even hit a three.
- Both plays to start the game were Russ And-1s …. and he made both free throws!
- Dakari Johnson made a driving layup where he ran from what felt like half court with the ball. No travel call. It was glorious.
- Also Dakari could be my favorite player because he passes to Alex Abrines.
- The Thunder really needed this win. It was touch and go for much of the 4th quarter, but OKC was able to pull it out. Good to see them win a close one.
Mavs on Sunday