Tale of Two Halves: Thunder Defeat Clippers 128-110
The Oklahoma City Thunder (2-4) won their second straight game Tuesday night, topping the Los Angeles Clippers (4-3) by a final score of 128-110. The Thunder were able to exact some revenge on the Clippers, avenging a loss 11 days ago at Staples Center. The Thunder were led by 32 points apiece from Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
Westbrook got off to a strong start in the first quarter, scoring 12 points (6-of-8 shooting) in the first — and the former MVP didn’t even attempt a shot outside of the paint. He attacked longtime nemesis Patrick Beverley with post-ups on both blocks before eventually “rocking the baby” to the delight of the Chesapeake Arena crowd. However, the Clippers used a 14-4 run midway through the first, closing the quarter with a 33-25 lead. Los Angeles forced the Thunder into the penalty with 7:15 to go in the frame, allowing themselves to shoot 7-of-9 from the charity stripe.
The second quarter was a story of runs and whistles. The Thunder bench unit, led by Hamidou Diallo, put together a 9-0 run to cut the Thunder deficit to two at the 9:22 mark. The bad news — it was another quarter of lazy defense, as the Thunder entered the penalty with 8:09 to go in the quarter. The Clippers were able to take advantage by shooting 12-of-15 from the free throw line in the second, and an 11-0 run of their own put them up 49-38 with 6:10 to go. Despite Westbrook’s strong start (20 points on 9-of-18 shooting), his teammates combined to shoot 39.3 percent from the field. The Clippers lead ballooned to 67-54 by the halftime break.
The Thunder exploded with a 23-2 run to start the second half, taking a 70-69 lead after Jerami Grant hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 8:04 remaining in the frame. OKC’s lead would grow to 77-69 during the lopsided run. All in all, the Thunder outscored the Clippers 39-10 in the quarter, shooting 70 percent from the field in the process. The Thunder defense put the clamps on Los Angeles here, holding the Clippers to 25 percent shooting (and zero free throw attempts) in the 12 minutes of action. George paced the Thunder with 11 third quarter points, leading to a 93-77 Thunder lead heading into the fourth.
With momentum on their side, the Thunder were able to maintain a sizable lead for most of the final frame. OKC was able to put the nail in the coffin after a Westbrook alley-oop from Terrance Ferguson gave them a 120-100 lead with 3:57 remaining.
The win moves the Thunder to 2-4 on the season ahead of Thursday’s road showdown with the Charlotte Hornets. That game tips-off at 6:00 PM CST and will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma.
Russell Westbrook highlights:
Paul George highlights:
Kiwi Returns: Steven Adams returned to the Thunder lineup on Tuesday after missing Sunday’s contest against Phoenix. Adams was joined by Westbrook, Terrance Ferguson, George, and Grant. Adams picked it up in the second half, as he ended the night with 18 points (8-of-15 from the field) and 10 rebounds.
Russ with Controlled Rage: Westbrook was in complete control tonight, leading the Thunder with 32 points and a responsible shot selection throughout. Westbrook didn’t attempt a shot outside of the paint in the first quarter, as it was clear the Brodie was going to the cup all night. OKC’s offense is in much better shape when their MVP isn’t jacking up shots early in the shot clock. It was especially encouraging that Westbrook only attempted three 3-pointers tonight. The lower his three-point attempts, the better.
A Little Help, Please?: Westbrook was the only Thunder player who showed up in the first half, leading the way with 20 points on 9-0f-18 shooting in the first two quarters. Westbrook’s teammates shot a combined 39.3 percent from the field in the opening half.
Third Quarter Explosion: Ask and you shall receive! Sparked by a 23-2 run to open the half, OKC shot 70 percent from the field in the third quarter. Westbrook’s running mates, particularly George, came alive in the frame. OKC got stops and got out in transition, holding the Clippers to 25 percent shooting in the third. The Thunder outscored the Clippers 39-10 in the 12 minutes of basketball.
Power Forwards Unite!: Tonight was arguably the best collective performance put out by OKC’s tandem at power forward. Grant got the start for the third consecutive game, playing 25 minutes and scoring 12 points (5-of-7 FG, 1-of-2 3P, 1-of-3 FT), along with his typical energy on both ends. Meanwhile, Patrick Patterson lit it up off the bench in his 20 minutes of action. Patterson didn’t miss a shot, scoring 8 points while chipping in two three-pointers. OKC needs Patterson to stay hot from deep coming off the bench.
We Meet Again, Old Foe: The all-too-familiar chippiness started early between Westbrook and Beverley. Westbrook “rocked the baby” going back on defense on two separate first quarter possessions after successfully posting-up Beverly on the block. Beverly returned the favor by “rocking the baby” after scoring a bucket in transition, even though Westbrook wasn’t the primary defender on the play.
Tensions were elevated in the fourth quarter, however, with the game well in-hand for OKC. Westbrook attempted a nuclear transition dunk on Beverley, but lost the ball on the gather. The next possession, Beverley dove into Westbrook’s knees fighting for a loose ball. Both players exchanged pleasantries before Beverly was issued a flagrant-one after review.