Missed opportunities plagued the Oklahoma City Thunder (6-9) in a 108-100 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers (13-4) Sunday at Staples Center.
For a second straight game the Thunder stayed within striking distance of the star-laden Clippers but could not chop down the deficit.
A dunk from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander cut Oklahoma City’s deficit to 102-96 with 1:56 remaining and capped a late, 13-2 last-gasp run. However, All-Star Kawhi Leonard, who was tremendous with a game-high 34 points, answered with a jam at the opposite end that all but closed the door on OKC.
For a second straight game, the Thunder surrendered a big lead early.
Oklahoma City fell behind 36-19 after the first 12 minutes as Leonard and former Thunder forward Serge Ibaka spearheaded L.A.’s hot start. Leonard scored 14 in the opening quarter while Ibaka went 4-for-5 with eight points and four rebounds. The Thunder struggled, going just 8-for-26 with nine misses from 3-point range.
Like Friday, the Thunder fought back, outscoring the Clips 26-20 in the second quarter to open opportunities to take the lead in the second half. They cut the deficit to six and seven points multiple times in the final two frames, but never any closer.
The Clippers extended the lead to 17 midway through the fourth quarter before a quick run by George Hill. The Thunder guard drilled three straight 3-pointers to shave the deficit to 102-94. Hill run’s was quickly followed by Gilgeous-Alexander’s dunk off an assist from Luguentz Dort.
Hill scored 22 points on 9-for-12 shooting in arguably his best offensive outing of the season. Gilgeous-Alexander led the team with 23 points and seven assists. Isaiah Roby recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards while Hamidou Diallo scored 14 off the bench.
Ibaka finished a fine two-game outing against his former team with 17 points while another former Thunder, Reggie Jackson, scored 11. Jackson played 20 minutes in the second half after starter Patrick Beverley was unable to return from an injury apparently suffered in the second quarter.
Oklahoma City looks to bounce back, closing out the second half of a back-to-back Monday against the Portland Trail Blazers (8-6) at Moda Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m. CT.