Contrary to reports, Monday’s game in Los Angeles actually contained more than a single dunk by Blake Griffin. But maybe it shouldn’t have. Because really, that said it all.
The fallout noise from the Thunder’s 112-100 loss to the Clippers will largely come from the THUNK leveled by Griffin’s posterization/destruction/murder of Kendrick Perkins, but it really was about 50 seconds at the end of the second quarter. The Thunder had dug themselves in a hole early on, but kept plugging eventually trimming the Clippers’ lead to six with 1:24 left in the half. It appeared that Oklahoma City had weathered the storm and found its way back into the game, setting up a competitive second half.
Then Mo Williams hit one. Then Caron Butler. Then Williams again. Then Chauncey Billups. Boom, bang, bing, blam. One, two, three, four. Four consecutive 3-pointers took a six-point lead to 18 faster than you can say “Holy crap Blake Griffin.”
It was an odd game to see the Thunder completely helpless defensively. Not that OKC has been a great or even all that good defensive team this season, but giving up 36 points in the first quarter (most this season) 64 at halftime (most this season) and 112 for the game (most this season) just isn’t like them. And to watch a team drain 13-25 from deep, including 10-14 definitely isn’t something you see all that often. It feels like I’m taking something away from a well-deserved win by the Clippers, but that was not your normal output of offense from Lob City. That was a team wide hot hand that the Thunder just couldn’t slow down.
The bad thing is, the Thunder stayed in the game, actually whittling it to 12 with three minutes left. But as the theme of the night went, the Thunder couldn’t get the necessary stops to complete the comeback. No fault to Kevin Durant (36 on 14-23 shooting) and Russell Westbrook (31 on 13-26) though who combined for 67 of the Thunder’s 100 points.
Which means if you’re good at simple math, the rest of the team scored only 33 points. James Harden was terrible starting for Thabo Sefolosha, scoring only seven points on 2-9 shooting. Really, the extra scoring only came from Daequan Cook who had 12 on four 3-pointers that really didn’t matter. A Thunder player not named Kevin or Russell didn’t score a single point until Nick Collison made a basket with 33 seconds left in the first quarter. That kind of night.
I wouldn’t read much at all into this game though. The Clippers are indeed a good team and one that I think can contend for the West potentially, but whenever you endure a barrage of 3s like the Thunder did in that second quarter, it’s tough to recover. Some nights the other guy has just got it. It’s only loss No. 4 for OKC and it comes on the road against a high quality opponent. No reason to hang your head in shame after that one. Well, unless your name is Kendrick Perkins that is.
- The Clippers had balance, the Thunder were left to Durant and Westbrook trying to push a car uphill. I think a one game sample is far too little to declare Scott Brooks right, but maybe he does have a point with this Thabo starting business. Starting alongside KD and Westbrook, Harden did absolutely nothing the first nine minutes of the game. Not only did Westbrook and Durant score all the points, but I’m not entirely sure Harden was on the court at all. He touched the ball maybe twice. Possibly Westbrook’s fault, but it’s also possible that the fit isn’t there. You can see what Scott Brooks sees. When Harden is allowed to take ownership of that second unit, he’s free to score. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Harden’s average in the fourth quarter dips severely despite playing most the minutes. It’s just hard for him to figure out how to find his place and let down his beard and go at it when playing with Durant and Westbrook.
- Related note: OKC is now 0-2 without Thabo and really 0-3 as he played very little in the loss to Dallas. Considering his thing being perimeter defense, I tend to think he would’ve helped in this one.
- The Griffin dunk was the low moment of the night for Perk, but he got worked by DeAndre Jordan early on. Jordan used his height and athleticism to grab an offensive right over the top of Perk and put it back with a dunk. Not just because of the poster from Griffin, but I think this was Perk’s worst game of the season. He was slow in his rotations, didn’t defend the pick-and-roll well and really just had an overall bad matchup.
- The only thing worse than a transition pull-up jumper from Westbrook is a pull-up transition 3. Which he tried tonight.
- One thought on the Griffin dunk: I’d much rather have a guy like Perk that tries to stop that than a guy that just lets Griffin have two points. Yeah, people are going to rag on Perk for a long time now, but I think it’s worse if you sidestep and take yourself out of the play. Perk went for it and you know what, he’ll go for it again next time too.
- Things faster than Perk’s windup for a jumper: the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to a butterfly, Rich Eisen’s 40-yard dash and the amount of time it takes to make eggs benedict.
- Perk picked up his eighth technical of the year. He said earlier in the season he’d slow down at eight, so I guess we’ll see if he was serious.
- I liked Scott Brooks’ move to go small for a lot of the first half, playing KD at the 4. He basically neutralized Griffin. Vinny Del Negro only played Blake 12 minutes in the first half because he couldn’t just stick him on Durant. Brooks tried it again in the second half, but the Thunder were in a scrambling hole and never got any stops with that lineup.
- Chauncey Billups took an all-time stupid shot with three minutes left in the fourth and the Clips up 13. It was a 1-on-3 break and he stopped and pulled up for 3 with 22 on the shot clock. That’s his thing and he sometimes makes those, but still. Dumb.
- The Clippers had 28 assists tonight. OKC had 15. The Clippers had six guys in double-figures. OKC had three. Says a lot right there.
- The Thunder allowed only six offensive rebounds to the Clippers. That’s a plus. Maybe not though because there aren’t a lot of offensive rebounds to be had when every shot is swishing through the net.
- KD really was absurd in this game though. He scored 36 on 14-23, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked three shots. He was terrific. I wish he would’ve just said, “Screw it, I’m taking over” late in the third though and tried to go for 50. He had it going. He could’ve done it.
- Westbrook with six more turnovers. But five steals. Balancing act.
- Serge Ibaka was not great on the inside. He fumbled away like six rebounds or passes, finished with only five boards and two points and wasn’t great one-on-one against Griffin.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “Westbrook might want to change his name to Maytag. Put him in the spin cycle.”
Next up: At Dallas Wednesday.