What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
Pure joy. After so many sloppy performances, the Thunder finally lit a fire under themselves and decided that they wouldn't waste any time in putting the Clippers away. The first and second quarter were lights out, especially in the opening minutes of the game. At first, it seemed like the Thunder wouldn't be able to shake the Clippers, but when their firepower from long range ran out, so did their chances of winning.
Why? Well, the Thunder's defense inside tonight was superb. There's no other way to put it. Blake Griffin was kept away from the basket, and forced to pass it off or attempt some tough jump hooks. If it wasn't for the name on the back of his jersey, you wouldn't have noticed him on the floor.
What was tonight's turning point?
The Clippers made various small runs throughout the game, and the score fluctuated anywhere from around 20 to the high single digits. The Clippers last run came during the early fourth, when Nick Young drew a three shot foul, hit all three free throws, and then hit another three. Kenyon Martin capitalized with a mid-range jumper, putting the Clippers within 9.
OKC called a time out, and both teams came out of it hurling up bad bricks from beyond the arc, as was the case for most of the third quarter. Eventually, Russell Westbrook ended the stalemate with a drive to the basket, and Harden sealed the deal with a subsequent three. The Clippers never recovered, and eventually withdrew their starters.
What was, overall, the main reason the Thunder won?
Play in the paint. The Clippers shot about as well as the Thunder from beyond the three point line, but their overall field goal percentage was awful, at 36.7%. DeAndre Jordan led their front court with a sizable 12 points, 5 above his average, but that was only because there was so much pressure on Blake Griffin. With the Clippers backup bigs (Evans and Martin) presenting no scoring threat at all, there just wasn't much going for them. Paul had trouble finding his way into the paint as well, being bothered by the bigger Russell Westbrook.
What is a key statistic to understanding tonight's game?
49-31, which was tonight's rebounding deficit. Not a single Clipper had more than 7 rebounds. On the Thunder's side Ibaka was a beast on the boards tonight, grabbing 5 on the offensive end and 8 overall. Durant led everybody with 9 boards, while Perkins grabbed 8. When three of the Thunder starters are threatening to go in double-digits on boards while not playing a full game, you know the Clippers aren't getting any second chances.
What does this game mean for the Thunder today and moving forward?
This game moves the Thunder 35-12 and helps them preserve their Western Conference lead over the Spurs, who also won tonight. It's also a big statement game heading into a really tough three weeks of action, where the Thunder will play 7 of 8 games against teams in the playoff hunt, including the Heat, Bulls, Lakers, Grizzlies, and Pacers.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, for a night that was simply bonkers.
Thunder Down Under: Nick Collison, for some really solid post defense.
Thunder Blunder: None.
Thunder Plunderer: Randy Foye, for an amazing offensive performance.
Next Game: Versus the Minnesota Timberwolves, Friday, March 22nd, 7 PM Central Daylight Time