The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in game 1 of the 2nd round of the 2014 NBA playoffs by a staggering score of 122-105. Embarrassingly, that score does not even do justice to the level of play that the Clippers maintained across 3 quarters, where at one point they were ahead by 29 points and actually scored over 100 points in 36 minutes of play.
The primary catalyst to this event was Chris Paul, who was questionable coming into the series after enduring a number of bumps and bruises that have impacted his game over the last few weeks. Paul, who has long been recognized as the top point guard in the league because of his passing skills, flipped the script and looked for his own offense early. As a result, Paul scored a game-high 32 points, but it was in a stunning display of long-range shooting. Paul connected on 8-9 3-pointers in the game and 12-14 shooting overall to go along with his 10 assists.
Kevin Durant, who is expected to be named MVP later this week, finished with a modest 25 points on 9-19 shooting. Russell Westbrook, who struggled at times protecting the ball (6 turnovers) finished with a team-high 29.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
Let us dispense with a detailed breakdown of the game, because it really wasn't that hard to understand. Here you go:
1) The Thunder defense guarded the perimeter like they were still playing the Grizzlies;
2) The Clippers feasted on this passive perimeter defense;
3) The Thunder turned the ball over too many times, which led to Clipper point runs and the Clippers winning the game inside the game that mattered, outscoring OKC 104-77 through 3 quarters.
Sure, plenty of other things happened, but that is the gist of it. Everything else is just window dressing.
What does this game mean to the Thunder tonight and going forward?
Here is the question of the day. Where do the Thunder go from here? The one thing that Thunder fans need at this early juncture in the series is perspective. How in the world do you gain perspective after a beating like we just witnessed, where it seemed like the Clippers would never miss and the Thunder fell short of any type of matchup advantage?
Look to the past. Say, for example, Game 3 of the 2013 Finals. You remember that one, right? That was the game where the San Antonio Spurs hit a Finals record 16 3-pointers en route to a 40 point shellacking of the defending champion Miami Heat. I've never seen a team get that hot for such a prolonged period of time, especially against a very good defense. But it happened.
What happened next?
The Heat turned around and thumped the Spurs on their own home court by 16 points in Game 4, lost Game 5, but then went on to win Games 6 & 7 on their way to a 2nd consecutive championship. The 40 point blowout became a mere footnote.
The point is this. The loss was bad. Really bad. It revealed a lot of the Thunder's recurring issues during the regular season, most notably their lackadaisical perimeter defense. However, it is only one loss. Even a loss on their home court, which at present costs them home court advantage, is not unprecedented in this league or even for the Thunder. They've been in this situation before. The challenge now is to recognize that these Clippers are a different animal and OKC cannot simply roll the ball out and expect to be in control.
These things happen. They happen to the Thunder, they happen to the Spurs, and they happen to the Heat. It even happened to the Warriors last round when they lost to the Clippers by 40 points. What did Golden State do? Did they fold up the tent? No, they regrouped and won 2 more games in the series and nearly pulled off the upset. Recovery is possible.
It is not time to lose faith. There is still a lot of basketball to be played.
Thunder Wonder: None for you tonight.
Thunder Down Under: None for you tonight.
Thunder Blunder: All of you tonight.
Thunder Plunderer: Chris Paul. Seriously, you guys.
Next game: Wednesday, May 7th @ 8:30PM CDT