What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
After two games of delusion against the Eastern Conference, the Thunder are back in the reality of their situation. Deep in the fourth quarter, the Thunder's offense went scoreless over a critical and nearly 3 minute stretch. But it's not even that that's the most disconcerting. The Thunder were distributing the ball well, with their four leading scorers all getting good opportunities. But Kevin Durant was just....well, off. I really hate to blame the guy, especially after he's been such a solid rock for this team over the years in terms of production. I know that he still had a bearable statline tonight, and hit a game-tying three with 32 seconds to go. But his defense was horrible, especially on Young. His shots came off flat and out of rhythm. He wasn't running plays well. He missed a few shots point blank. Yeah, I don't know what to say. It just wasn't his night.
What was tonight's turning point?
When Chris Paul put on his game face. After scoring a mere 2 points in the first 23 minutes of the game, he spent the last 25 minutes scoring 28 points. The Thunder had success trapping him early, but started to leave him in one-on-one situations when their transition game got sloppy and the fouls slowed down the game. (And boy, did fouls slow down the game tonight. This game finished only a minute or so before the Spurs-Lakers game, which started 30 minutes later.)
The game was close at the end as both teams had offensive problems. The Thunder weren't executing, and the Clippers were a one man show. The game crecendoed with Chris Paul tipping in a shot with 1:19 to go, putting the Clippers up by 5. But the Thunder responded with an Ibaka dunk, a blocked Kenyon Martin jumper, and a clutch KD 3. With the game tied at 31 seconds to go, Chris Paul drove straight down the lane for an easy layup, and KD was unable to respond with a three of his own.
What was, overall, the main reason the Thunder lost?
Missed opportunities in the first quarter. Honestly, the Thunder were dominating during that time. They held the high scoring Clippers to 21 points, were constantly getting out in transition, kept Griffin contained in the paint, and were lights out from three. But there were so many blown plays. Four shots taken right next to the rim were missed. KD clanked a dunk. Harden lost the ball in an easy transition play. The Clippers had 6, count 'em, 6 offensive rebounds in the quarter. In all honesty, the final score of that quarter should have been at least 33-17. But they let the Clippers stay in the game, and eventually fell prey to their own weakness.
What is a key statistic to understanding tonight's game?
Blake Griffin, the Clippers second leading scorer, went 6-15 tonight, and the best scorer behind him was Kenyon Martin, with 12. Eric Bledsoe and Randy Foye went a combined 4-16 from the field. The Clippers shot 31.6% from three overall, below their season average. They had less than half of their season steal average. Yet, they managed to win this game. Doesn't something look a bit wrong here? The simple explanation is that the Thunder blew this game. Really poor stretches of play, particularly the aforementioned scoreless 2:47 in the fourth, missed opportunities in the first, letting the Clippers live at the line, and no superstar play all conspired to provide us with a sloppy loss.
What does this game mean for the Thunder today and moving forward?
The loss drops the Thunder to 42-16, but due to the Spurs losing to the Lakers tonight, they keep the Western Conference lead by a single game. It also moves the Thunder to 2-4 in the past 6 games, with the only two wins coming against sub-.500 teams.
Thunder Wonder: James Harden, who performed excellently whenever he was called on.
Thunder Down Under: Derek Fisher, who surprised us all with his first truly good performance for the Thunder.
Thunder Blunder: Kevin Durant, for not achieving the KD level tonight.
Thunder Plunderer: Chris Paul, for an astonishing performance that reminds you of old times.
Next Game: Versus the Sacramento Kings, Friday, April 13th, 7 PM Central Daylight Time.