“They’re the best team we’ve played all season.” — Scott Brooks, Thunder Head Coach
The term “best team” and “Clippers” have never really been synonymous. Maybe we’ve said the Clippers are the best team at allowing half court shots at the buzzer (because we all know that’s true) but to hear “best team” and Clippers together is as much of a shock to the system as seeing Chris Paul in a Clippers uniform for the first time was. It’s still difficult to wrap your mind around it.
Last night’s game signified an arrival. There wasn’t a bad individual performance on the floor. The coaching was great. The rotations made sense. The chemistry was there. The ball was swinging around the perimeter, each man passing up an open look for an even better one. It was as close to a perfect offensive performance I’ve ever seen the Clippers put up.
The Clippers have beaten great teams in the past. They conquered some of the league’s elite last year, and they’ve already taken down the Heat, Lakers and Mavs this season. But this felt different. The Clippers made the Thunder look hopeless.
The Thunder’s only answer was to come back defensively. Durant kills you because you can’t contest his shot. Westbrook kills you because you can’t possibly stay in front of him. But Paul kills you in a different way. He administers a small dose of poison every trip down the floor. It’s a death by a thousand decisions, and it’s just as effective.
The Clippers didn’t sneak by. They didn’t get bailed out by missed free throws or a big shot at the end of the game. They dismantled the best team in the West, piece by piece, until there was nothing left.
Even if this performance is the ceiling for the Clippers — the absolute best this roster is capable of — it’s plenty good enough. No team in the league could have beat the Clippers the way they were playing last night. This, all this, on a tail-end of a back-to-back, traveling home from a tough game against Denver? The circumstances make the performance even more terrifying.
We may never see an outing like this one again from the Clippers, and that’s okay. At least now we know, without any doubt, that this team is capable of greatness.