Oklahoma City Thunder
Los Angeles Clippers
MVP: DeAndre Jordan was perhaps the most steady performer for the Clippers during their early struggles, and as the team turned up their intensity in the fourth quarter, he too took things up a notch. With under 2 minutes left in the contest, Jordan would score 6 consecutive points on back-to-back three-point plays, turning a 4-point deficit into a 2-point lead. He’d finish with 20 points on 8 of 13 shooting while also grabbing 18 rebounds.
That was … the best win of the season: The deficit was 20 points late in the third quarter and was as high as 16 with 7:12 of the fourth. The Clippers would then go on a 26-5 run to close out the game. The comeback brought flashbacks of Game 4 against Oklahoma City in the second round of the playoffs two seasons ago, if not falling just short of being as exciting as Game 1 against Memphis in the 2012 postseason.
X factor: The bench got the rally started in the fourth quarter, forcing turnovers and forcing the Thunder to only one possession each time down the floor. Cole Aldrich would score 6 points in his 6 minutes of play, Wesley Johnson played inspired defense as Kevin Durant tried to post him up, and Jamal Crawford would hit a fallaway bank jumpshot over an outstretched Randy Foye to essentially seal the victory for the home team.
— Brandon Tomyoy
Tweet(s) Of The Game
Jamal Crawford did what now? https://t.co/voQXWiRaB5
— Six Second Sports (@sixsecsports) March 3, 2016
Jamal Crawford is shooting 45% on Isolations from the top of the key this season. He's 35.
— Synergy Sports Tech (@SynergySST) March 3, 2016
Westbrook's shot was like when you pull up for a three and accidentally hit the dunk button instead
— Pablo S. Torre (@PabloTorre) March 3, 2016
At one point, OKC had a 99% win probability against the Clippers. Then the collapse…. pic.twitter.com/tm7XI3zO7L
— Positive Residual (@presidual) March 3, 2016
2nd time in Clippers history they've overcome a deficit of at least 17 entering 4th quarter in a regular season game (Nov. 1976 vs Lakers)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 3, 2016
Doc Rivers smiled as he walked past me. "You had to rewrite your story didn't you?"
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) March 3, 2016
Check Your Messages
Through 3 quarters, the small forward matchup was a complete mismatch.
While former MVP Kevin Durant was dunking on dudes half his wingspan (25 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks through 3 quarters), Jeff Green and Wesley Johnson were having a rough go at it.
Green replaced Luc Mbah a Moute in the starting lineup, and the results were awful. He finished with no points, missing all seven shots from the field, and did not play in the 4th quarter. But Johnson, coming out of a February where he made only 28 percent of his threes, had only 3 points on 1-of-10 shooting from the field entering the 4th.
That’s 1-of-17 shooting from the field from two guys!
But here’s the thing with Doc Rivers. He tells his guys to keep shooting. You heard that from the old head JCrossover earlier this season, and Rivers reinforced that philosophy over the weekend. He wants his players to shoot. (Yeah, I would’ve been cool with that in high school.)
Rivers left Crawford and Johnson on the court for the entire 4th quarter – all 12 minutes. Johnson had a personal run of 8 unanswered points for the Clippers, tying DeAndre Jordan for the most 4th quarter points in this game. Johnson also kept his head in the game defensively, causing multiple turnovers. Crawford, on the other hand, hit the seemingly impossible bank shot to give the Clippers a 101-97 lead with under a minute left. Johnson and Crawford outscored OKC 14-13 in the 4th quarter. Not outscored Durant and Russell Westbrook … those two Clippers bench players outscored the entire Thunder team in the 4th quarter.
Give the Clippers some credit. They didn’t quit while they were getting straight bodied tonight. Johnson, in particular, kept playing. Kept shooting. And somehow, the Clippers ended up with a win over the Thunder – a win that gives the Clippers a positive point differential (+1) against Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and Golden State this season despite a 2-5 record against those teams.
Good Luck Charm
The Clippers are 2-0 in the Chuck the Condor era.
The Clippers came back down 20 to take the win over presumptive favorites, the Oklahoma City Thunder, and 3rd seed in the west.
I was wrong. I take it all back. I have seen the light.
Chuck the California Clipper Condor, may you live eternally, and forever feast on the bones of your vanquished foes. Amen.
No, not that kind of rebounding; that’s a whole other conversation. Tonight the Clippers showed off a different sort of rebound – they bounced back from about 14 quarters of pretty tired-looking basketball (including the win over the Nets and all but the 3rd quarter against the Kings) to play a truly impressive fourth period. They forced OKC into turnovers and bad shots, cajoling mistakes out of a team that had torched them for 36 minutes. They went to the 1-5 pick and roll and executed it perfectly time and time again. They found open shots and drained them. And they were intense, feisty and excited when they easily could have gone quietly to bed.
On JJ Redick’s podcast last week, he and DeAndre discussed the grind of NBA life, how the long season and hard work takes a physical and mental toll. They both said they wished they could skip right to the playoffs, an understandable sentiment in this awkward part of the schedule on a team that has nothing to prove in the regular season, and everything to prove after it. Over the previous week or so, that feeling has been a little more obvious than usual. Not in the last ten minutes tonight. This was the fun, fiery Clipper team that everyone else hates, and this is the team that can still reach up and snatch that 3 seed.
Force the Issue
Was this a weird game? Depends who’s standard we’re judging on – the Clippers staging a 22-point comeback on a proverbial title contender seems daunting and unlikely. On the other hand, the Thunder experienced some sort of deja vu after similarly coughing up Saturday’s game to the Warriors. L.A. won this one despite being outscored by 20 in the first half, getting wiped clean on the glass (63 Thunder rebounds??), and some dismal perimeter shooting through three quarters.
This game turned on the heels of a fourth quarter where the Clippers began forcing the issue inside. Chris Paul, after settling for jumpers in the first half, noticeably shifted his game into ‘probe’ mode – consistently sliding into the paint off DeAndre Jordan pick-and-rolls, rather then circling back out. This is where Paul is exceedingly difficult to deal with because he’s a threat to lob over the top – as he did to Jordan for a tip-in ‘and 1’ – or penetrate all the way to the rim himself. With Paul disrupting OKC’s marshmallowy pick-and-roll defense, Jordan sliding backdoor or beating Steven Adams and Serge Ibaka for rebounds, lobs, and put backs was almost routine.
Credit to Doc for staying with the closing lineup of Paul, J.J. Redick, Wesley Johnson, Jordan, and Jamal Crawford despite major struggles earlier in the game (particularly from Johnson who made some decisive late-game defensive plays). That group finished the game +17 in point differential. All of it seems like a blur and frankly pretty crazy – but it just proves what a little increase in energy and persistency can do not only to yourself, but the opponent.