The Clippers collapse again late in the game tonight, scoring only 10 points in the fourth quarter en route to a thoroughly disappointing 83-79 loss. They shot a season-low 36 percent from the field. “We just missed so many shots here tonight that we shot ourselves in the foot,” Mike Dunleavy said after the game. “So many easy buckets, opportunities, good looks from outside that we didn’t make…” Chris Kaman led the team with 20 points but took a career-high 26 shot attempts and made just nine of them. Baron Davis shot just 6-of-18 from the field but was supremely effective as a distributor, delivering nine assists and no turnovers in 41 minutes.
Two moments in the game to highlight before we get to some of the issues raised in this one — both good and bad.
[2nd, 6:13] Al Thornton three-pointer: If Thornton can provide this sort of shooting on a regular basis, the Clippers won’t miss Eric Gordon all that much over the next 10 or so days. We also see a calm, patient Baron Davis pass up on a three-point of his own and hand it back to Thornton, who nails the straightaway 28-footer.
[4th, 9:14] Jeff Green three-pointer: After sloppy play from both sides to begin the fourth quarter, Green hits the first shot of the period to tie the game up at 69. Immediately after, DeAndre Jordan is called for an offensive foul, and the Thunder go on to score four more points before the Clippers respond. Green hit only two of the six shots he attempted from beyond the arc, but this was a big one.
Onto the notes:
Not bad on defense: The Clippers had arguably their best defensive showing on the season tonight, albeit not against a top-flight offensive unit. Still, the Thunder put up an average of 94 points a game heading into the game. Like they did against the Grizzlies, the Clippers again let the opponent’s star score but limited his teammates. Kevin Durant had 30 points on 12-of-20 shooting, but the rest of the Thunder shot a collective 36.5 percent. As a whole, they shot just 42 percent, including 23 percent from three. Dunleavy said the defense wasn’t to blame for the loss: “If you had told me their score in this game and that they had shot 42% from the field, I would’ve thought we had a pretty good chance to win the game based on how we’ve been shooting the ball.”
More on Durant: The 6-foot-9, 230-pound Durant presented problems for the Clippers all game long. “He’s just a mismatch,” Kaman said. “Any time you get a guy like that it’s just a tough matchup because you can’t put a big on him because he just outplays the bigs and if you put too small of a guy on him, you see what happens — he just posts them up and takes advantage.” The Clippers rotated the task of covering Durant throughout the night but couldn’t find a stopper.”He shoots over you,” Thornton said. “Easily.”
Unable to finish, again: With the Clips up nine with 3:53 to go in the third quarter, the Thunder proceeded to outscore them 22-6 over the next ten minutes of play. This has been a consistent problem so far this season, and it’s one players are getting tired of. “We’ve been in all the games, except for the New Orleans game,” Thornton said. “But we need to find a way to close them out. We’ve got to get better in that aspect.” Added Baron Davis: “We started off the game pushing, attacking, sharing the ball. And then as the game progressed it’s like we just get out of sync.
Al pleased with his performance: Thornton had 15 points and 9 rebounds tonight while playing 40 minutes, his highest total of the season. He made 4-of-10 shots and noticeably passed up a couple outside shots in favor of driving to the lane. “I have not been playing well at all, and I think it was a big game for me, in terms of my confidence,” Thornton said. “Getting a little bit of my swagger back, trying to come out there and contribute. It was a good game for me.”
Kaman ill: Chris Kaman will sit out of practice tomorrow with an illness, Dunleavy said. The illness is not of the flu variety, but Dunleavy said after the game that the team doctors had told him Kaman was contagious. “It may have accounted for some of his play,” he said. Kaman downplayed it, saying it was no excuse for his 9-of-26 shooting performance.