The Thunder have 99 problems, but the Clippers aren’t…
Yeah, I’ll stop that right there.
Oh, oh, how about this one: The Clippers looked like a Threat, but in an Encore from the last meeting, the Thunder finally had a Moment of Clari.. I’m sorry. I’m done.
But the Thunder needed a good win against a good team, and they got a good win against a good time. You can put a caveat on it if you want in that the Clippers were coming off a tough game the night before, but we don’t tend to offer that forgiveness for the Thunder in such circumstances (i.e. the Warriors loss). It was a quality start to finish 48-minute overpowering with the Thunder leading end to end.
“I thought that was probably as well as we can execute a game plan and execute on both ends of the floor, on offense and defense in the second half,” said Scott Brooks. “I thought we played good throughout the game, but really did a great job in the second half.”
An example of what Brooks is talking about: The Thunder had 17 assists to five turnovers in the second 24 minutes, outscoring the Clippers 54-48 while holding them to just 7-20 shooting in the fourth quarter.
It was a thorough performance by the entire team, and maybe most positively, it wasn’t just about Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant being spectacular. Durant was, scoring 28 on 10-19 with eight assists and six rebounds, but Westbrook struggled a little offensively, scoring just 12 on 5-13 shooting with five assists. Enter Serge Ibaka, who was tremendous in staring down Blake Griffin, scoring 17 on 8-10 shooting with five rebounds and three blocks. Reggie Jackson was excellent with nine points and three assists in 21 minutes off the bench. Jeremy Lamb knocked down a few second half jumpers, scoring 11 on 5-10 shooting in 20 minutes. Steven Adams was strong — literally and metaphorically — pulling in seven rebounds with three blocks and six points in 24 minutes.
And then there was Derek Fisher, making second half plays and playing weirdly good defense. It’s like the basketball gods are intentionally throwing things in my face now. In the fourth, I couldn’t believe it as I watched Fisher match up with Chris Paul at a critical stage, but there the old guy was, making a great play on a strip and steal, then leading a fast break for an easy dunk for Lamb. Fisher’s making things happen and Brooks has the golden touch right now in how he uses him.
Because overall, with Fisher scrapping, Collison collinsoning and the young guys producing, the Thunder have an extremely effective second unit that’s not just hanging on for dear life waiting for Westbrook and Durant to check back in. It’s a group that’s taking leads and extending them. Which when you’ve got guys like Westbrook and Durant waiting as reinforcements, is a huge, huge thing.
This was a necessary win for the Thunder, and certainly an impressive one. But at the same time, it’s a win that comes with disclaimers, among those being that it’s still not even December yet. It’s much easier to downplay a win than a loss, but the fact is, the Thunder are doing their best to remind everyone that this still might be their conference to lose. That can all change quickly though, as perception tends to ebb and flow, but this team is definitely capable of being special.
“We aren’t satisfied with anything,” KD said. “It was a good win against a really good team, especially since they beat us the last game, but we’ve got to move on from it.”
- If you are unaware, Jay Z and Beyonce were at the game tonight. They sat courtside in KD’s seats. I found it kind of funny they stood with the Thunder crowd and waited to sit until the first basket was scored.
- I watched about 50 percent of the actual game in front of me because after everything that happened, I looked at Hov and Bey to see what their reactions were. Jay Z preferred clapping, Beyonce did a lot of just looking beautiful.
- KD on the Z’s being at the game: “That’s crazy. I don’t even know how to describe that right there. That’s unbelievable for them to come to Oklahoma City and come watch us play.”
- Serge Ibaka in 48 minutes against the Clippers this season: 30 points on 14-16 shooting.
- Best moment of the night was when Steven Adams went for a handshake with former Thunder great Byron Mullens, and ended up shaking his own hand.
- It drives me crazy as much as it impresses me how KD is so devoted at making the right basketball play, even when that includes passing it to an open Perk. But KD knows he’s got to just make the correct play, regardless of who’s getting the ball. (And yes, one could argue that passing to Perk is never a correct basketball play.)
- Doc Rivers on Steven Adams: “He’s going to be a good player. That was a hell of a draft pick.”
- Westbrook was 0-6 from 3 tonight. But really, he was more like 0.5-6, because he had one rattle more in and out than I think I’ve ever seen.
- Perk dunked. I saw it. I was there.
- Westbrook was really not at all happy with Adams after the Kiwi missed a laser pass from Russ. Adams tapped him and said, “I got you Russ.” Westbrook just shook his head. Next play, Adams blocked Chris Paul.
- Another Thunder fan hit a halfcourt shot tonight. That’s two games in a row, and five since March. Since then, Thunder fans are 5-22 from halfcourt. Reggie Jackson is 5-23 from 3 this season (h/t buddy bro Ben Golliver).
- KD on the halfcourt shots: “That’s two in a row now. We might go broke with these guys making these halfcourt shots now.”
- Idea for the Thunder: Give fans an option: halfcourt shot for $10,000, or a shot from three-quarter court for $50,000.
- I doubt it’s true, but I like to imagine Nick Collison and Steven Adams being best friends.
- Best game for Adams since his double-double against the Pistons. He had a few lapses defending the pick-and-roll, but overall solid. There was one possession in the second half where he was confused if Jackson was going to ice the screen or if he was just supposed to hedge it and the entire Thunder coaching staff was yelling a number of things at him. You could see the confusion on his face as Ryan Hollins rolled to the basket and got an easy dunk. Adams was hearing all the coaching and trying to sort out his job, and really just needed to block it out and trust his instincts.
- Jeremy Lamb did some really good things. He had 11 points, and while he hit just 1-5 from 3, he was really good curling off picks and knocking down midrange jumpers. Two of his shots in the late third and early fourth were as important as any other made in the game.
- Reggie Jackson is getting too good. I’m starting to worry. Every floater he makes, all I see are dollar signs.
Next up: Home against the Jazz on Sunday