Nice to finally have that out of the way. Officially, the Thunder are 2010-11 Northwest Division champions for the first time since 2004-05 when the team wasn’t here.
Said Kevin Durant: “It’s a great accomplishment, but we want something bigger.”
Naturally, the Thunder tried to make it a bit more difficult than it needed to be. A couple late defensive lapses, mixed with some poor offense, stirred with problems getting the ball inbounds, combined with a missed free throw and OKC had to withstand a late push by the Clippers to take home a 112-108 win.
I think there’s a certain level of justified disappointment that the Thunder didn’t rock the Clippers a bit better. After the disaster in Los Angeles four days ago, it felt like there would be a high level of revenge to be had. And while the Thunder held a double-digit lead for a large portion of the fourth, much in the way they do, the Thunder lost focus for a couple stretches late and made it a bit close.
Probably the key play in the game was Serge Ibaka contesting a massive poster attempt by Blake Griffin with 20 seconds left. Kevin Durant had just missed a free throw that would’ve taken OKC’s lead to four and if Griffin had finished that, the lead would’ve been just one. But Ibaka fouled him hard and Griffin split his free throws. That meant Durant was able to ice the game the next time with two free throws.
It was a game where offense and defense was great for five minutes and bad for the next five. Blake Griffin poured in 35 points on 15-20 shooting and that’s the thing: That guy’s good. He’s a tough cover for anyone, and the Thunder have the players to check him. Mo Williams was hot from 3 (4-6), Eric Gordon made some shots and with all of that, the Clips were tough to put away.
It was also a game that serves as a good example of why OKC has to have Russell Westbrook playing well (26 points, seven rebounds, seven assists). While Eric Maynor was terrific Tuesday, the offense stalled a bit to start the fourth. Westbrook checked back in two minutes earlier than usual and immediately hit a nice baseline jumper, then dropped two free throws. After what felt like was going to be a dry spell of offense, Russ sparked the team quickly. I understand that frustration with “hero mode” and how he can stop the ball and therefore, the offense. But he scores and is very good at it. And that’s what the Thunder needs in most cases.
One thing to keep in mind though, this was the second of a back-to-back coming off a pretty emotional win in Denver. Not a great excuse, but it definitely is one. Durant said after the game he felt the team relaxed a bit. It was pretty plain to see. They likely wanted to coast their way to the buzzer, but the Clips kept making shots.
- Best play of the night: Because of transition, Perk got caught man-to-man in an iso on Randy Foye. Perk got in a great defensive stance and completely shut off Foye’s drive attempt. He missed a runner, OKC got the rebound and Perk let out a nice big fist pump.
- Dallas lost, so OKC is now just one game back for third in the West.
- Perk missed eight shots at the rim in the first half. However, he had nine offensive rebounds in the first half. Though it was a bit of the Courtney Paris routine of missing and getting your own over and over. If you were wondering, the NBA record is 13 by Charles Barkley. Most in a game is 21 by Moses Malone. The nine offensive rebounds were the most by a Thunder player since the move. Previous holder? Russell Westbrook with eight. That’s probably the wildest part of the whole thing.
- Oh, for the game, Perk finished with 10 offensive boards and 17 overall. Man work down there, kids.
- KD settled for the 3 a bunch again (2-8) but here’s the thing: When he’s open, he’s got to shoot it. There was only one that I can think of that was forced. The rest were good looks. He finished with 29 on 9-23 shooting and did a nice job creating a bit late.
- Durant has to lead the league in in-and-out misses. He had four tonight.
- I’ve said it a few times already but I love the way Scott Brooks is using Daequan Cook and I love what Cook is adding off the bench. Cook came in and immediately dropped two 3s, then created a dunk for Nazr Mohammed. He only gets 5-10 minutes a night, but that’s all he needs.
- Chris Kaman picked up a technical in the third quarter and as ref Scott Wall called it, he said “Bam!” when he gestured the “T” part. Why do officials always do that? Do they just love calling techs that much?
- What a scramble in the third quarter. Perk tried to feed Westbrook on the baseline, but the ball got poked away. Ibaka dove on the floor to grab it and kicked to Westbrook who was open in the corner. Russ had to fire with the shot clock winding down. He missed but grabbed his own rebound, kicked to KD who drilled a 3. It was a huge swing and put OKC up nine.
- Al-Farouq Aminu really looks like he has no idea how to wear a headband.
- If you care about such things, the ovation for Blake Griffin was much, much quieter this time around. In fact, he was booed after each big dunk he had (and he had many). Of that he said, “It’s one of those things. The Thunder’s their team. They’re not going to cheer for me just because I’m from Oklahoma. I didn’t expect it. I’m sure there were a lot of Oklahoma State fans in the audience so I don’t expect to get cheers from them.”
- A lot were wondering why Blake was booed. Here’s my thought(s): First, I think a good amount of people were turned off with his last game against the Thunder (myself included). Then on top of that, KD was pretty adamant about Blake still being the man in OKC. So maybe it was an effort to get behind KD a bit. (Also, I thought Blake was much, much better in this one. No drama, no posturing. Maybe playing in front of mom and dad helped.)
- I don’t know what happened to end the first half. The Thunder called timeout with about 10 seconds left. The ball went in to James Harden, but he completely lost track of time or something. When the clock hit two seconds, he chucked a deep 3. Scott Brooks’ look at him after the play was hysterical.
- Has there ever NOT been a fun Kiss Cam?
- I think Barry Switzer has sort of become OKC’s version of Jack Nicholson. At every game, he always gets shown on the video board and always gets a big ovation. I think that comparison should tell you a lot about the differences between Oklahoma City and Los Angeles.
Think one second back to your expectations for this season in September. You probably said, “Oh, the four seed would be awesome, but I expect the five or six.” You probably thought the Thunder would finish behind Denver or Utah (or both) in the Northwest. You probably didn’t really think this team was headed here. So keep that in mind as the Thunder celebrates this division title. It’s easy to get caught up in the now and current success and forget how good this really is. This has been a really terrific season. Truly, it has been.
But like KD said, it’s time to look for a little something more.
Next up: Denver at home Friday.