The Oklahoma City Thunder led by as many as 22 over the Los Angeles Clippers and entered the fourth quarter with a 17-point cushion. But a complete meltdown ended with a 103-98 Thunder loss in Los Angeles on Wednesday night.
Chris Paul, after missing his first six shot attempts, finished with 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting. He also dished out 13 assists and anchored a 35-13 fourth quarter for the Clippers. DeAndre Jordan contributed 20 points and 18 rebounds. Wesley Johnson, starting the game ice cold, made some huge plays in the fourth to push Clippers' comeback and finished with 11 points off the bench.
Kevin Durant led all scores with 30 points. He also grabbed 11 rebounds. Russell Westbrook had 24 points and 12 assists.
With a 17-point lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Thunder made every possible mistakes that could happen on the court. They missed open looks, committed bad passes and even dribbled out of bounds. The Clippers closed the game with a 22-3 run.
With 1:49 left to go, Paul lobbed the ball to Jordan and Jordan completed an and-one play to make it a one-point game. In the next possession, Westbrook stepped out of bounds after he recovered the ball off a bad pass. Jordan tipped in Paul’s miss and drew the foul again for a second consecutive three-point play, and the Clippers took a two-point lead with 1:12 left. A Durant miss and Jamal Crawford make later, and the Thunder had to call their last timeout with 38 seconds left in the game.
With Clippers leading by four, Durant drew a foul while shooting. A 90 percent free throw shooter, he could only sink one of two. The Thunder then got a crucial stop as needed. Out of a timeout, Westbrook soared far from behind the arc and took a shot that went wide. The Clippers collected the rebound before J.J. Redick secured the Griffin-less Clippers’ comeback win from the line.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
Considering how well the Thunder had been doing before the final period and especially how well they started the opening quarter, the result certainly came as a shock.
It seemed the Thunder had the game in their pocket from the get-go, after ending the first quarter with a 37-24 lead. The Thunder were able to shut Clippers’ offense down from midway to the end while somehow making their own contested shots fall.
Redick’s injury played a huge part in Clippers’ scoring drought. He had early success finding open looks off his tireless running. He started the game with 4-of-6 shooting. But he went back to the locker room due to an apparent back injury midway through the first quarter. He returned the game in the second but never seemed to regain his early-game stride.
Second units from both teams hit shooting slumps and exchanged bricks in the second quarter. But occasional explosive plays behind the dynamic duo were able to maintain the Thunder’s lead. With Steven Adams and Serge Ibaka doing their business over Jordan, the Thunder had a 39-21 edge in rebounds over the Clippers at halftime.
Just when you thought the result is a safe bet and started to think about how nice the Thunder could rest key players because of the Golden State Warriors game on Thursday, the Clippers showed that they were not willing to settle down as a warm-up course.
What was the the main reason why the Thunder lost?
The fourth quarter looked a lot like the first one, but with a role reversal for the two teams.
The Thunder completely let their guard down in the fourth. They gave up too many open looks in both half-court sets and in transition while failing to make buckets offensively.The Clippers even missed two completely open looks after they cut the Thunder's lead to 93-81. But the Thunder returned the favor by doing nothing on both ends. Then with no one anywhere near him, Johnson sank two straight 3s in a span of 22 seconds to cut the Thunder cushion to 95-87 with 4:26 left on the clock.
None of those seemed to light a fire under the Thunder and they ended up becoming a footnote in the Clippers' largest comeback win of the season.
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook. He was just four rebounds shy of a triple-double.
Thunder Down Under: Kevin Durant, for being the scoring ace as usual.
Thunder Blunder: Andre Roberson, for a donut from behind the arc (0-of-3).
Thunder Plunderer: Chris Paul. He recovered from his own shooting woes and handed the Thunder a tough loss.
Next game: vs. Golden State Warriors on March 3rd @ 9:30 PM CDT