It wasn’t pretty down-the-stretch, but the Oklahoma City Thunder, behind a game-high 35 points from Kevin Durant, were able to hold off the L.A. Clippers 108-104 Sunday afternoon at Staples Center.
OKC controlled the game for the majority of the first three quarters, and led at halftime by 13 points. The Clippers weren’t able to close to within 10 points until a Chris Paul three-point play on the final play of the third quarter cut the Thunder lead to nine.
The Clippers got a stellar effort from Chris Paul, who finished with 26 points, eight assists, six rebounds and four steals. He essentially took the game into his own hands offensively in the fourth quarter, and nearly brought the Clippers back all the way by himself.
L.A. held a brief 100-99 lead following a bizarre sequence that resulted in the Clippers scoring seven points on one possession.
At the same time Matt Barnes drilled a three to bring L.A. to within 99-96, Thunder forward Serge Ibaka brutally chopped Blake Griffin below-the-belt, resulting in a flagrant foul. Griffin made one of the two ensuing free throws, and then Jamal Crawford capped-off the Clipper possession with another three, this one from the top of the key to give them a one-point lead.
Griffin finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Crawford added 20 more off-the-bench.
OKC got out to a large lead early, led by a superb first quarter from Russell Westbrook, who scored 14 in the frame. He would finish with 29 points and 10 assists, including a huge pull-up jumper to essentially put the game on ice late in the fourth.
Following the flagrant, Ibaka also converted a crucial three-point play late that resulted in Griffin’s sixth foul.
OKC held a distinct advantage at the free-throw line, as they hit on 25 of their 34 attempts. The Clippers went 19-22.
L.A. looked lackadaisical and disinterested throughout much of the first half, repeatedly turning the ball over and getting nothing going on offense at all. Often times, possessions would end in a contested jumper, rather than with the typical cutting action we’re used to seeing from their offense.
Oklahoma City effectively shut-down Lob City.
Kevin Martin led the Thunder bench with 10 points, though he shot just 3-12.
Durant was grilling the Clipper defense throughout the first three quarters seemingly at-will, until Vinny del Negro employed a zone defense that seemed to throw the league’s scoring leader off his game a bit. He finished 10-25 from the field.
The loss dropped Los Angeles to 23-7 as the home tenant of Staples Center, and OKC swept the season series. Obviously, this doesn’t bode too well for L.A. should the two teams eventually meet up in the playoffs.
Oklahoma City improved to 43-16 on the season, and the Clips fell to 43-19.
The Thunder will head back south to take on the Lakers on Tuesday night, while we’ll next see the Clippers when they host the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.
About the Author
Written by Taylor Smith
Taylor Smith is a writer for the Los Angeles Clippers, and covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for ProSportsBlogging.com.