The Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the Los Angeles Clippers, 93-90. In a sloppy affair that was riddled with the physicality we've come to expect from these two teams, the Thunder once again showed that they will not be cowed by their opponents despite the shortage of their talent. OKC entered the game missing many key players, but endured yet another when All-Star Russell Westbrook left the game at the end of the first half with an injured hand. In another dose of bad news, coach Scott Brooks has reported that Westbrook's hand is broken:
Thunder coach Scott Brooks says Russell Westbrook has a small fracture in his right hand.— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) October 31, 2014
While many viewers probably clicked off the game at that point, the Thunder bench players demonstrated their quality by refusing to give in. They fought back and had numerous chances to take the lead in the final minute of play, but could not get the conversion they needed. Down three points with under 3 seconds to play, Serge Ibaka's long 3-point attempt hit the front of the rim, and the most unlikely upset bid was thwarted.
The Thunder were led by Perry Jones, who scored a career high 32 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, and had 3 assists. Serge Ibaka finished with 17 and 9 and was instrumental in keeping the Thunder in the game with late-game 3-point shots.
The Clippers were led by Blake Griffin, who finished with 23 points and 7 rebounds before fouling out.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
Thunder fans are probably beyond panic at this point. After getting hit with so many injuries over the past few weeks, it is difficult not to feel snake-bit by circumstances. Yet heads can be held high because even though there is a dearth of talent on the court, the Thunder bench players are showing that they have some resolve within them that can benefit the team in the long term.
The revelation of the night however is Perry Jones, who did his best Kevin Durant impersonation by scoring 32 points on 10-17 shooting. Thunder fans have been waiting for Jones to make this kind of leap where he finally utilizes his athletic skillset that has few equals around the league. Jones scored from the perimeter (3-6 from 3-point range), mid-range, and at the rim. An emergence of Jones on the 2nd unit, playing along side Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb, immediately turns that 2nd unit into one of the more potent bench offenses in the league.
Also, Sebastian Telfair did a solid job running the point for 38 minutes after Westbrook left the game. Even though his numbers weren't eye-popping (11 points, 7 assists, 2 TO's) it is the kind of steady point play that a good team needs to have from its 3rd string PG.
The game was a loss, but there are plenty of positives to take away, not the least of which is the fact that it messes with the minds of the Clippers, who were playing at full strength and are predicted by many to be title front runners.
(Also, one small observation toward the Blake Show - does his comment about not wanting to take any more crap mean that he's just going to stand outside and shoot jumpers all game?)
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder lost?
Aside from the obvious fact that important players were wearing street clothes, the Thunder could not capitalize on numerous opportunities at the end of the game that could have given them the shocking win. After pulling to within one point at 89-88, the Thunder had a remarkable four opportunities to take the lead. Instead, they had two Telfair missed shots and two turnovers, and never once really put Jones in a position where he could get a clean look.
It is difficult to quibble though; the mere fact that they put themselves in a position to win is substantial enough to call this a meaningful loss for the Thunder as a team.
Thunder Wonder: Perry Jones, 32 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists
Thunder Down Under: Steven Adams, 6 points, 10 rebounds
Thunder Blunder: Russell Westbrook, who barely played and had to leave with an injury
Thunder Plunderer: Chris Paul, 22 points, 7 assists
Next game: vs Denver Nuggets on Saturday, Nov. 1 at 7PM CDT