Oklahoma City Thunder
Los Angeles Clippers
MVP: Russell Westbrook scored 31 points to go along with 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals. 11 of those points were scored in the fourth quarter, including a three-pointer that gave the Thunder their first lead of the second half with 48 seconds left in the contest.
That was … three in a row: Three losses in a row, that is. In the Doc Rivers era, the Clippers have only had losing streaks of three or greater a total of two times prior to tonight’s game. With the loss to Oklahoma City, this is now the third time this has occurred, and the second time this season.
X factor: With 14 seconds left, Chris Paul would steal the ball of a Dion Waiters inbound pass, dashing straight towards the basket for a driving layup that would temporarily give the Clippers a 1-point lead. On the replay, it appeared that Paul may have been fouled, and fans in the stands — including one Billy Crystal — could be seen audibly upset at the non-call.
— Brandon Tomyoy
Tweet(s) Of The Game
Doc spoke to Josh Smith before the game and said something along the lines of – We're going in a different direction
— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) December 22, 2015
Russell Wesbrook drives and kicks Blake Griffin below the belt, you can hear his reaction https://t.co/mvHORr4XpE
— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) December 22, 2015
CP had Blake on the roll, took a fallaway jumper instead that Durant tipped for KD’s 4th and biggest key defensive play of game.
— J.A. Adande (@jadande) December 22, 2015
Check Your Messages
Just four days removed from the Christmas holiday, it seems that the Clippers’ star forward got in the giving spirit early. At least, that would be as likely an explanation for any that could be offered as to why, on a night Blake Griffin shot 7/21 from the floor in 33 minutes, little used bench players Pablo Prigioni and Cole Aldrich were gifted with so many minutes in this game and suddenly became the most effective players in the rotation.
Surely, Griffin let Aldrich use some of his superpowers for the evening; Aldrich — who has not many seen rotation minutes this season — had 5 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks in just 12 minutes of play. Perhaps he was counting down the days to Christmas in excitement himself. Meanwhile, Lance Stephenson picked up the remainder of Griffin’s slack, scoring on 4 of his 5 shots in 15 minutes of play. Nevertheless, Clippers fans would have been thankful for a little more selfishness from the temporarily befuddled big man, as his generosity denied fans the best gift of all: a good win over a tough team before the real holiday celebration begins.
– Aaron Williams
When Chris Paul is having nights where he’s proving that the murmurs of his decline are premature, the gravity he brings to the ball is particularly important to the Clippers offensive engine. The ball in his hands, especially when he finds a path that gets him just a few feet from the basket, almost begins to seem magnetically charged, drawing two or even three defenders and creating open opportunities everywhere.
It’s especially beautiful when this gravity opens the paint enough for one of the Clippers bigs to move down the paint and upwards towards the rim, manifesting in either a driving dunk or an emphatic alley-oop. It gave the hometown team the lead again late in the fourth, and then all of a sudden, the next two plays went away from it. The first, a pass to J.J. Redick standing just outside of the paint, lead to a turnover. The last, in which Blake rolled towards the basket, lead to a blocked Chris Paul jumper and the loss.
There have been far too many games where late game Chris Paul heroics have been the reason the Clippers have won, so it’s understandable that he’d be comfortable with that shot. But having the option of Blake below the rim is a luxury few teams have, and the percentages in that scenario skew largely in favor of Griffin.
– Brandon Tomyoy
The Art of Closing
It’s probably the most important part of the game. And in a matchup of a potential playoff preview both teams traded blows in the decisive quarter. And yet when you look back, it was the Clippers who were outscored 28-22. Even when shooting on par with the Thunder at 47 percent, the defense was unable to hold off the Westbrook/Durant combo (big surprise). Therein lies the seemingly impossible task of stopping a team that employs two of the best five players in the league. Simply put, the Clippers — and really no one in the world — can keep the unrelenting Westbrook drive from occurring. Not surprisingly it resulted in 11 Westbrook free throws (for perspective — no one on the Clippers got to the line more than six times). Under the six minute mark of the fourth quarter is also the time when Westbrook seems to gas it even further. It’s really a helpless moment.
The Thunder pose some tangible issues for the Clippers. They’re one of the few teams in the league that can throw two dynamic scorer’s at you along with the best offensive rebounding unit in the game. The Clippers usually dependable Chris Paul/Blake Griffin pick-and-roll was hardly clicking. Even when Griffin found room, his jumper was painfully off. For the Thunder’s cause, it surely helps having a perennial defender in Serge Ibaka that has no hesitation in venturing to the perimeter to defend Griffin. Should Griffin decide to duck down, they have additional defensive length to bother and disrupt. The Thunder’s versatility on both ends fueled their fourth quarter surge, as it usually does.
– Kaveh Jam