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Thunder Hang On, Defeat Clippers 110-104

Thunder Hang On, Defeat Clippers 110-104


The Oklahoma City Thunder (18-10) found a way to hold on to a 110-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers (17-12) at Chesapeake Arena on Saturday night. The Thunder were on the back end of a back-to-back after last night’s defeat in Denver. Paul George led the way for the Thunder, recording 33 points (11-of-19 FG, 5-of-9 3P, 6-of-8 FT) 7 rebounds, 6 assists, a steal, and a block.

Both teams got out to contrasting starts in the opening frame. The home Thunder attacked the Clippers inside, outscoring the Clippers 18-2 in the painted area, whereas Los Angeles shot 5-of-8 from three in the opening quarter. The Thunder led 30-27 after one.

Russell Westbrook’s struggles on the offensive end over the past five games have been well documented, and they continued tonight in the first half. Westbrook was 0-of-7 from the field before making his first shot, a transition three with 2:07 to go in the half. As a matter of fact, both Thunder point guards were having a difficult time putting the ball in the basket, combining to go 3-of-15 from the field in the half. Despite the Thunder backcourt’s offensive shortcomings, the Thunder closed the second quarter on a 13-5 run to put the Thunder on the high side 61-50 heading into the locker room. George was on fire, scoring 22 points including 4-of-5 from three in the first half.

Third quarters have become the Thunder’s happy place so far this season and tonight was no different. The Thunder out-scored the Clippers 25-19 in the quarter, thanks in large part to constant activity on the defensive end. Nerlens Noel was especially effective defensively, recording two blocks in the quarter. The Thunder missed a few too many opportunities at the rim, but still led 86-69 heading into the fourth.

The Clippers made things interesting in the fourth, stringing together an 11-2 run to cut the Thunder lead to seven after Patrick Beverley hit a corner three with 4:55 remaining in the game. A Jerami Grant corner three pushed the Thunder lead back to 11 with 3:40 left. A Montrezl Harrell and-one brought the Clippers to within six with just over one minute remaining. A wasted possession which resulted in a shot-clock violation by the Thunder gave the Clippers the ball back facing a two-possession deficit with 50 seconds on the clock. Harrell went back to the free-throw line after a Westbrook turnover with 20 seconds left and missed both freebies. The Thunder were quite sloppy in the closing minutes, but were able to hang on for the 110-104 victory.




PG Stays Hot: PG-13 carried the Thunder on the offensive end tonight, as he continues to play the best basketball of his Thunder career since his game-winning three in Brooklyn last week. When Thunder possessions become stagnant, which they often do these days, George has been there to bail them out. The Thunder need every bit of his offense right now.

Block Party at the ‘Peake: The Thunder recorded seven blocks tonight, as Grant led the way with three. Grant recorded two of his blocks on back-to-back first quarter possessions on Clippers center Marcin Gortat. Noel chipped in with two, as his energy anchored the defense in the third quarter as the Thunder were able to pull away.

Thunder Point Guards: Both Westbrook and Dennis Schroder were unable to find a groove offensively tonight, combining to go 8-of-31 from the field in the contest. Westbrook, despite his recent struggles scoring, provided contagious energy throughout as he recorded six steals. The Brodie finished with 13 points (4-of-17 FG, 3-of-4 3P, 2-of-3 FT), 9 rebounds, 12 assists, and the aforementioned six steals. Schroder finished with only 8 points on 4-of-14 shooting from the field. Westbrook’s ability to impact the game without having the benefit of an effective scoring night was on full display.

Blueprint Thunder Basketball: It was no secret that the Thunder prioritized getting back to their defensive identity this offseason, as these sort of games were what I’m sure Thunder brass had in mind. The Thunder came into tonight leading the league in turnovers forced, as the Clippers fell victim to the swarming Thunder defense. The Clippers turned the ball over 26 times, which led to 22 points off turnovers and 20 fastbreak points for the Thunder.

Three-Point Shooting: A hot-button topic for Thunder faithful after every game. The Thunder were 9-of-22 (40.9 percent) from three tonight, as George alone went 5-of-9 from downtown. The Thunder shot 4-of-13 (30.7 percent) from distance by everyone not named George. The Thunder desperately need someone other than George to consistently knock down open threes.

Free-Throw Shooting: The Thunder weren’t as dreadful as usual tonight from the charity stripe, converting on 17-of-24 (70.8 percent) attempts. The quicker the Thunder can figure out their issues here, the better.