Los Angeles Clippers at Oklahoma City Thunder
Chesapeake Energy Arena
6:30 p.m. PST
May 7, 2014
1. Was Chris Paul’s Game 1 performance the best in Clippers playoff history?
Law Murray, (@1maddskillz): If we’re just talking Clippers, and not Bob McAdoo’s Buffalo Braves, then I wouldn’t have an argument about this. I mean, Chris Paul put the 3 back in CP3 on Monday night. Personally, I don’t even feel like this was the best Clippers performance in this postseason! Sure, Blake Griffin obliterated the Golden State Warriors for 35 points in Game 2 only a couple of weeks ago, a 40-point “backs to the wall” victory. But what have you done for me lately?!
Luke Laubhan, (@lukelaubhan): It certainly ranks as one of the best. The Clipper franchise has only been in the playoffs 10 times, with three of those appearances coming as the Buffalo Braves. Statistically speaking, Bob McAdoo, Danny Manning, Elton Brand, and Blake Griffin have all had playoff games in the neighborhood of what Chris Paul pulled off Monday night, but none did it as efficiently as Paul, on the road, in the second round, in a win, versus the MVP.
Patrick James, (@patrickmjames): Yes, but it has more to do with context than with numbers. This performance came on the road in round 2 against a team most folks think is better than the Clippers. But unlike great individual efforts against, say, Phoenix in 2006, this wasn’t about punching above their weight. It was about belonging in the fight. So far, in the Clippers’ three playoff runs with Chris Paul, there’s never been a feeling that the Clippers could really compete with the West’s best. This game says maybe they can.
2. How would you evaluate Russell Westbrook’s Game 1 performance?
Murray: Perhaps lost in the splendor that was Chris Paul on Monday night was the fact that Russell Westbrook dropped a very efficient 29 points in three quarters. The blowout ensured that the 14 shots Westbrook got up would be a 2014 postseason-low, but his improved shot selection from the end of the first round made its way over to the second round; he straight bullied Paul and Darren Collison a few times. That’s good news for the Thunder. The bad news is that #LetWestbrookBeWestbrook is an inclusive experience, and the Clippers benefitted from the Thunder point guard’s 4:6 assist-turnover ratio. The ugly was, well, whenever the Clippers had the ball. As a scorer, Westbrook was great. As a floor leader and team defender, Westbrook was horrendous.
Laubhan: If I’m distributing grades, Russell gets an “Incomplete;” we didn’t see enough of him in any kind of pressure-cooker minutes in Game 1 to see which way he might tip the series. Blame the blowout for that. It is worth mentioning that Westbrook’s defense was one reason the game got out of hand. That’s a good sign for L.A. Offensively, Westbrook picked up where he left off against Memphis, yielding to OKC’s greater flow. We’ll see if he keeps it up.
James: As Law mentioned, Russell Westbrook scored with uncharacteristic efficiency. That’s a good thing. The bad thing is that through three quarters, 69 percent of the Thunder’s offense came through Westbrook or Kevin Durant. Against Memphis, we saw how much better the Thunder are when everyone gets involved. But that didn’t happen in game 1 against the Clippers. There’s also probably a connection between that predictable attack and Westbrook’s many turnovers, both of which played into the Clippers’ hands.
3. Is this series a better matchup for J.J. Redick?
Murray: It should be. If Redick wants to bring his jumper to this series, then he could bake these dudes Mike Miller-style. The only player trying to chase Redick through the hamster wheel for OKC is Thabo Sefolosha, and unlike Andre Iguodala, Sefolosha doesn’t have the Army Knife offensively to go with his Swiss background. Redick has struggled with his three-ball against the Thunder this season, making only 5-of-20 in four games. I expect that percentage to improve over the course of this series.
Laubhan: Yes. The Thunder don’t play perimeter defense particularly well, and Scott Brooks will likely put the team’s best individual defender, Thabo Sefolosha, on Chris Paul eventually. That leaves Westbrook, an athletic but undisciplined defender, Reggie Jackson, or Derek Fisher, chasing Redick through screens and around the court. That’s better than what he faced in Andre Iguodala. Bombs away, J.J.
James: There’s no question. Andre Iguodala is one of the league’s best team defenders, so it must be nice for Redick to get some reprieve from his relentless chasing and hounding. Even though OKC has plenty of perimeter length, Chris Paul’s brilliance puts the Thunder in a tough position in terms of how to use it. Namely, does Thabo Sefalosha guard Paul or Redick? Whoever he doesn’t guard could be in a position to make the Thunder pay — we’ll see whether that happens.