The game’s first several minutes were the Blake Show on Tuesday in Oklahoma City. Kevin Durant started off slowly. OKC’s power forwards collected four fouls in the game’s first six minutes. It wasn’t looking good.
But despite that, the Thunder used a big run in the second quarter to take control over the Los Angeles Clippers and start off the post-All-Star break slate right where it left off: with a blowout win over a Western Conference weakling with a 111-88 victory in Oklahoma City Arena.
With road games coming up in San Antonio and Orlando followed by a home date with the Lakers, it was important for Oklahoma City to pick up a win over the recently struggling Clippers, and hopefully do it in the same dominating fashion as when it dispatched the Kings a week ago. The Thunder did just that and has won its last two games by a combined 53 points.
The key for OKC was a 15-0 run over the final 3:39 of the first half. DeAndre Jordan brought Los Angeles to within a point at 47-46, but that was the last time the Clippers would score until after the break. The Thunder went 8-8 from the line in the run, and punctuated it with a Daequan Cook 3-pointer with 11 seconds left to put Oklahoma City up 62-46 at the half and basically end the game. The Clippers only had the ball in their hands with a single-digit deficit twice the rest of the way.
It ended up being the kind of game where lots of folks probably found themselves hoping LA could narrow the margin just a bit in the fourth quarter so Scott Brooks would need to bring Kevin Durant back in the game. After all, KD finished with “only” 21 points, and some of us like to see him get a nice, big point total to help him keep that NBA scoring lead. But really, it’s hard to complain about the result in any way if you’re a Thunder fan.
- Blake Griffin truly put on a show in his first NBA game in his hometown, finishing just two dimes shy of a triple-double with a healthy 27-11-8 line with only two turnovers. Griffin scored 12 of LA’s first 16 points, and that was with two missed free throws as well. He also did a good job just by being aggressive, which got Jeff Green and Serge Ibaka in early foul trouble for the Thunder. He also didn’t disappoint from the standpoint of his patented monster dunks, delivering a one-handed beauty in the fourth quarter that drew an appreciative “OOOOOHHHHHH” from the crowd.
- Speaking of Griffin, not that this is breaking news, but my goodness, has his game gotten much more well-rounded since the last time he played in Oklahoma. I spent plenty of time watching him during his Sooner games, and he was always skilled and of course ferociously athletic. But his footwork and shooting have made leaps and bounds since his college days. He’s always been an underrated passer, especially out of the double-team, but the guy has as close to a complete game from a rookie power forward that I can remember in the last decade. He’s so quick around the basket that it’s not fair.
- One more Griffin note: He wore a special T-shirt during warm-ups to honor his friend and former high school teammate, Wilson Holloway, who died last week of complications from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. That was classy. He also got the expected warm ovation from the crowd when he was introduced before the game.
- Griffin’s aggression that led to Thunder foul trouble led to something neat: a Cole Aldrich sighting! Aldrich entered the game at the 4:50 mark of the first quarter to his own warm ovation. I made a point to watch him closely while he was in the game because of the rare treat that it is to see him play now. In short, it was nice to see that OKC didn’t really have anything taken off the table with Aldrich in the game. He fought for position, collected a couple of contested rebounds and played solid defense. He got lured out of position a couple of times, but LA didn’t make the Thunder pay for it. All in all, a decent showing from the young big man.
- The winning poster got booed in the MidFirst Bank promo during the game. I had never seen that before. They only showed a couple of posters, and apparently the crowd didn’t like the chosen winner. Kind of funny.
- Oklahoma City’s other hometown sports luminaries made courtside appearances. Former baseball star Joe Carter (who I somehow forgot to mention in my Blake column earlier Tuesday) sat near Durant’s family, and Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford from OU, Griffin’s classmate, sat near Clay Bennett. Bradford got one of the loudest cheers of the night. Ardmore native Jermaine Gresham, the former Sooner tight end and classmate of Griffin’s and Bradford’s, was also courtside and sitting a few chairs over from Bradford.
- Jordan is a guy who would be good to have on this Thunder team. He had three straight dunks in the second quarter, and at least has the potential for the kind of down-low presence that’s coveted in the NBA. He, Griffin and Eric Gordon, who remains injured and didn’t play Tuesday, could be the best young three-man core outside of OKC’s.
- When Cook checked in the game late in the second quarter, that gave the Thunder 11 players who made it onto the court in the first half. When was the last time that happened?
- How about Russell Westbrook’s block from behind on Eric Bledsoe’s dunk attempt? I love those kinds of plays from Westbrook. He finished with only 13 points on 3-11 shooting, but he didn’t stop hustling, as usual.
- Westbrook picked up a technical after he argued following a non-call on a blitzing drive to the basket in the second half. He got mad and drove the lane hard twice on the next two possessions, picking up a bucket and a pair of free-throws. His attitude means as much to the Thunder as just about anything else.
- Aldrich made his defensive presence felt with a nice block on Ike Diogu late in the game. That got what was left of the crowd on its feet.
So on with the last 26 games of the season. The Thunder is sitting pretty at 36-19, but these last games are going to go by quickly. And there’s no time to rest with three of the NBA’s elite coming in the next five days.
Next up: At San Antonio on Wednesday.