Paul dominates Westbrook
In a game where the Clippers were missing their first and third best scorers, they managed to drop 120 points on the Thunder. Chris Paul was the primary reason. Despite dealing with a right patella contusion that limited him to 2 points in the Clippers last contest, Paul led his team in scoring tonight with 33. Paul's points were highlighted by his 5-8 shooting behind the arc. Westbrook didn't end up guarding CP3 half of the time, as the Thunder were constantly switching and focusing on protecting the rim. This allowed Paul to get whatever shot he wanted from distance, along with his usual in-between wing jumpers and tough layups.
The rest of Paul's game was good, if not flawless. Paul's 9 assists to 5 turnovers are a bit high for a point guard, but it's not like the Clips had a ton of ballhanders out on the court. Paul also had two steals, and did a really good job of mentally psyching out Westbrook on defense. Paul did an excellent job of meeting Westbrook through screens, preventing him from getting to the basket and getting to his spots. I mean, look at Westbrook's shot chart tonight:
As you can see, Westbrook didn't get a single shot from the elbow. That's Russ' bread and butter. Additionally, Westbrook had real problems getting a head of steam going into the paint. Because he couldn't get to his spot, Westbrook shot 2 of 8 from inside the arc tonight. Miraculously, Russ was 3 of 6 from beyond the arc, hitting his trademark ridiculously long attempts.
Westbrook's passing game was more of a mixed bag. Russ was clearly a bit more focused on distributing the ball than he has been in the past, logging a team high 7 assists and game high 10 turnovers. But the Clippers knew how to play Russ out of the pick and roll. They had a third man sniff it out and trap early, preventing Russ's escape pass. This forced Russ into a lot of snap bad decisions, and wasted some key possessions on the Thunder's end.
Still, it could be argued that Westbrook was facing a lot of dirty play. Russ was seen arguing with officials during the second and third quarters, and at one point indicated that Spencer Hawes had slapped his mask with malicious intent. The replay seemed to confirm as much, and the Clippers are definitely known for aggravating other teams. (See: Blake vs. Ibaka rivalry, Dahntay Jones shoving Draymond Green)
Thunder have no answer for Redick, Jordan
J.J. Redick was really able to step it up for the Clippers tonight, working well on the weak side. He was almost a second point guard for the team, as Nate Robinson predictably wasn't able to get a step on the agile D.J. Augustin. But Redick was much more controlled, passing and shooting around screens with great timing. Redick's excellent range and ability to hit it off glass really helped him out as well. By the end of the first half, Redick had accumulated 16 points and 5 assists.
DeAndre Jordan was a real boon for the Clippers as well. He grabbed a whopping 9 offensive boards, and limited Enes Kanter to 0 defensive boards. Quite simply, Jordan was a lot stronger than Kanter in the paint, and was able to muscle his way to his spots when he needed to. DeAndre was also called upon to defend the Clippers' honor in a round of hack-a-shaq. Jordan was intentionally fouled on 7 separate possessions in the fourth quarter, and came away shooting 7 of 14. That's above Jordan's average, and was more than enough to maintain the Clips already comfortable lead.
Big Man Rotations are as confusing as ever
Going into tonight, it appeared that the big man rotations were set. Kanter and Ibaka would start, while Adams and Collison would back up. But Mitch McGary somehow found his way into the equation tonight. After Collison saw the bench minutes at power forward during the second quarter, McGary was called upon to fill those same minutes in the third and fourth quarters. It didn't really make any sense, as Collison had hit a three in his first stint and helped the Thunder to make up 11 points of ground. But Brooks saw the huge deficit and assumedly wanted offense, so he turned to McGary in the second half. McGary treaded water for the most part, as the Thunder had already built a huge deficit by that time.
Enes Kanter and Serge Ibaka each had their own pitfalls tonight. Kanter was constantly getting stranded out high on defense. Kanter was hedging really high on the pick and rolls, and it just allowed the Clippers to get deep, get fouled, and find shooters. Serge Ibaka, on the other hand, just couldn't find open space against Spencer Hawes. Hawes wasn't much of a factor and Ibaka did his usual rim protection, but Serge's points were needed tonight more than ever.
Brooks had an unusual combination for exactly 2 minutes and 4 seconds of the second quarter tonight. During that time, he played Adams and Kanter together against Jordan and Hawes. The Thunder gained a four point advantage during that time, dominating the rebounds, getting inside, and passing effectively. One play in particular was really glorious, where Adams grabbed a really tough offensive rebound and handed it off to Kanter, who was immediately fouled. There were so many Clippers around them at the time, it was as if they had decided to take on the entire team!
OKC's bench can score, FINALLY
I've given Dion Waiters a lot of flak, and a 3 of 8 night isn't anything to write praises about. But I really liked the way Dion played tonight, and I'm feeling like he's finally getting a role in this offense. All of Dion's shots were either catch and shoot corner threes, drives to the basket, or stepbacks near the top of the key. As far as I know, those are his three preferred spots. If Dion can just hit those shots down a bit more consistently and continue to play with awareness, he may be serviceable just yet.
Also, Anthony Morrow. I feel really guilty for burying his 6 of 8 performance so deep in this recap. If the rest of the team had kept it close, I'm sure Morrow could have had an even better night. Some of A-Mo's shots tonight were just unreal. It's like he doesn't even need to grip the ball anymore. Once the ball hits Morrow's fingertips, he simply has to lift up and release. One of Morrow's three came at the end of the shot clock, and the release was particularly wild. Not even Derek Fisher saw the likes of the apex that Anthony Morrow's ball reached on that shot, and the finish saw the ball go perfectly through the hoop. It was one of those moments where every true basketball fan just starts shouting at the TV for no reason, no matter what situation.
20 Turnovers overall, and 35+ points allowed in the first and third quarters. Those two stats tell the story of this game for me. The Clippers got hot from long range early, and the Thunder panicked. OKC kept trying to force the issue by getting quick points and gambling on defense. But the turnovers and bad shots came at extremely costly times, and resulted in the Clippers gaining larger and larger leads. From that point on, it was just a matter of Chris Paul and J.J. Redick controlling the game.
I know I'm going to sound like a broken record here, but I really feel like the Thunder could have benefitted from starting Steven Adams. Funaki would have arguably been more effective defensively, and Kanter could have steamrolled over the Clipper bench for easy points. Also, why didn't we get to see more of Adams and Kanter play together? Ibaka struggles against Hawes, so it only makes sense.
Also, I'm crediting the great numbers of Glen Davis and Matt Barnes to great play in transition. Both of them seemed to be able to capitalize on scrambles of the ball. Davis is always able to power his way to the hoop when he has the ball nearby, and Barnes is always spacing the floor. So it's only natural that they'd both do well on a night were the Clippers move the ball and steal it a lot.
With the loss, OKC is now 9th place in the Western Conference. Poop.
Thunder Wonder: Anthony Morrow, the next Kyle Korver
Thunder Down Under: Dion Waiters, because I like surprising you sometimes
Thunder Blunder: Kyle Singler, whom missed all 3 shots and is shooting an ice cold 30% with OKC this season.
Thunder Plunderer: CEE PEE THREE FOR THREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
Next Game: Thankfully Versus the Minnesota Timberwolves, Friday, March 13th, 7 PM Central Standard Time.
What did you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!