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Thunder surge: the OKC 3rd quarter run that beat the Clippers

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OKC needed a big 2nd half. Here’s how they did it.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder were victorious Tuesday night with a 128-110 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. The game was not always in OKC’s control however. The struggles from the previous four losses started to creep back into the light in the first half. The struggles shooting the ball, the inconsistency defensively and the Thunder were forced to battle from multiple double-digit deficits. OKC was in need of a spark, not only for this game, but a spark that could potentially shift the Thunder’s confidence this season.

The Thunder found this spark in the second half in the form of a 20-0 run that completely changed the game. So what changed? What led to this big run? We take a closer, more detailed look at the Thunder’s 20-0 run in the third quarter of last night’s win against the Clippers.

OKC trailed 67-54 at the half. The Clippers offense was clicking on all cylinders, especially Danilo Gallinari, who scored 23 points in the first half. The Thunder simply had no answer for Gallinari’s attack, much like in their first meeting. OKC was allowing Gallinari to getting into a rhythm, whether it was attacking the Thunder bigs on a switch, or finding too much space from a screen for a three. The Thunder were not pressuring Gallinari at all, and often left center Steven Adams on an island to try and stop Gallinari from driving to the rim.

OKC’s defense needed to make adjustments coming out of the half. It did not look promising after Avery Bradley got into the paint and made a jumper on the Clippers’ opening possession. But then Russell Westbrook nailed a three on the next Thunder possession (3-0).

The Thunder defense began to pick up, forcing Bradley into a long three, then Paul George blocked Gallinari at the rim. The defensive allowed for the Thunder to get out in transition for a Russ to Adams alley-oop (5-0).

The Thunder made adjustments against Gallinari coming off screens and when he would post up. OKC would apply more pressure on him and the Thunder did a great job of hedging, recognizing that while he is a big guy with a decent handle, Gallinari is not quick enough to beat those double-teams off the dribble.

Gallinari began throwing the ball away, and the Thunder would get more transition looks. Jerami Grant used his length, picked off a Gallinari pass, and took it coast-to-coast for a layup plus the foul, and nailed the free throw (8-0). The Clippers offense was losing fluidity quickly, with the Thunder defense building intensity by the second.

Westbrook got a steal off of a bad pass from Bradley, which led to another transition opportunity. Terrance Ferguson scored an easy layup off of another Clipper turnover (10-0). The Clippers now were desperate to stop the bleeding; Patrick Beverley drove into the lane, and put up a contested floater that missed. Westbrook got the ball, pushed the tempo and found an open Grant on the wing for a three (13-0).

The Thunder run was at 13-0 and the Clippers called their second timeout of the quarter. The energy at the Peake was tremendous and the Thunder continued to feed off of their crowd and their defense. The Clippers’ struggles offensively continued and they turned the ball over again out of the timeout. Westbrook was in full attack mode, getting a layup over Montrezl Harrell to fall (15-0). The Thunder defense forced Gallinari into a tough, contested mid-range jumper that missed. Paul George, who had been rather quiet in this run, came off of an Adams’ screen and nailed a cold-blooded three (18-0).

The Clippers offense was in desperation for anything to go. Gallinari was isolated on the block, made a spin move towards the basket, only to be met by PG at the rim again. PG took the ball on the wing, began to dance on Tobias Harris, blew past him and dropped a dime off to Adams for a dunk (20-0).

The Thunder turned a 13-point deficit into a 8-point 77-69 lead after the 20-0 run. OKC’s defense became more disruptive, getting into passing lanes, packing the paint, being in the correct help position. Gallinari went from scoring 23 points in the first half to turning the ball over and getting his shot blocked. The Thunder went on to outscore the Clippers 39-10 in the third quarter, and 74-43 in the second half. The 20-0 run completely changed the game and could be the start of a turnaround for the Thunder season.