There are 7 teams with winning records in the Western Conference. And at the end of 2016, the LA Clippers are ranked 7th out of those 7 after dropping their 6th straight game. On Saturday night, the Clippers were victims in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder led by 21 by the end of the 1st quarter and by as many as 35 points on their way to a 114-88 victory. Thunder PG Russell Westbrook got a triple-double by halftime, and he didn’t even play the 4th quarter. And on a night where the Clippers were missing PF Blake Griffin and PG Chris Paul, backup SG Jamal Crawford played the most minutes of his career (30:33) in a game where he failed to score. Sounds like a fun flight back to LA on New Year’s Eve.
Top Performer: Obviously, it’s Westbrook, who got his 10th rebound of the game in the final minute of the 1st half. It took this man less than 19 minutes to get a triple-double! At halftime, Westbrook had 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists – and he did it on 5-of-8 FGs and zero turnovers. Westbrook was also the last Oklahoma City starter to score, so you know he came out focused after getting ejected in his last outing. Westbrook finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 14 assists on 6-of-11 FGs and a season-low 1 turnover. His only blemish was getting hit with his 11th technical foul of the season in a 4th quarter that he didn’t even play in.
X-Factor: What kind of slow do you have to be to get murked 33-0 in fastbreak points?!?! And it was worse in the 1st half, with the Thunder scoring 25 of those fastbreak points. Thunder SG Victor Oladipo led the Thunder with 9 of those 33 fastbreak points, with Westbrook adding 7. And yes, it was bad even when the Clippers weren’t missing shots or turning the ball over, as Thunder C Steven Adams got a bucket in the 2nd quarter following a layup by Raymond Felton.
Major Moment: The Clippers were up 3-0 with 9:24 left in the 1st quarter. But then the Thunder went on a 9-0 run, with each Thunder starter excluding Westbrook scoring. It wasn’t even the best run of the quarter for the Thunder, as they went on a 13-1 run following a tip-in by DeAndre Jordan. In between 9:20 and 3:10 left in the 1st quarter, Oklahoma City outscored LA 22-3, a period that saw the Clippers miss 12 of 13 shots while the Thunder got made baskets from 6 different players.
Key Lineup: LA started Austin Rivers, J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute, Paul Pierce, and Jordan. That lineup got smacked in 10 minutes, getting outscored 21-13 while compiling a net rating of -41.7 and missing all 7 threes. The Thunder kept their starting lineup on the floor for 14 minutes and it outscored the Clippers 30-21 while compiling a 33.8 net rating.
The Definition: It can’t just be Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. This is now LA’s longest losing streak since November 2010, when the team lost 9 in a row. Doc Rivers last lost 6 in a row in January 2013, his last season with the Celtics. And the last team to win a championship in the same season in which they lost 6 in a row was the 2010-2011 Dallas Mavericks. The 7th seed sounds like an appropriate place to be for a Clippers team that looks incapable of stopping anyone now. The Clippers are the oldest team in the NBA, with 8 players aged 30 or older, and they’re looking like it. At this rate, you can expect some major changes in January 2017.