The Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder are two of the most exciting teams in the league, and Wednesday night’s matchup lived up to all expectations. In a 107- 101 win for the Thunder at Staples Center, the game went right down to the final minute. The teams split the season series at two games a piece. The Thunder improved to 57-21, and remain the second seed in the Western Conference. At the third spot, the Clippers fell to 55-24 on the season.
Westbrook was definitely displaying his full repertoire Wednesday, finishing the game with 30 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, and two steals. Blake Griffin recorded 30 points as well, along with 12 rebounds for his 43rd double-double of the year. CP3 was not too far behind, following up with 25 points and eight assists in the point guard battle. Paul sparked the Clippers’ comeback after they fell behind in both halves with his three-point shooting and playmaking. The Clippers faced deficits of 15 points in the first half and 17 points in the second.
“I thought [the Thunder] were really into the game early on,” he told NBA.com. “They came to send a message.”
Despite Westbrook’s big night, the Clippers managed to hold Durant to 27 points on 26 shots. Just like Durant, the Clippers found themselves struggling with their offensive efficiency, as they shot 41.9 percent from the field. Los Angeles is the league’s highest scoring team (107.7 points per game), and are third in field goal percentage (47.4 percent). The team also struggled shooting from the free-throw line, only making 21 of 34 attempts on the night.
Defensively, the Thunder were able to cut into the tempo of the Clippers. During the game, Lob City was forced into 17 turnovers and OKC scored 22 points off of them.
Jamal Crawford, who leads the Clippers bench with 18.6 points per game, is sorely missed and they yearned for his scoring prowess during their empty stretches and lack of three-point shooting. The Clippers were scoreless a little over four and half minutes during the fourth quarter. They finished the night making only eight of 27 three-pointers.
Crawford is still out with a calf injury and has missed the last five games. Veteran forward Danny Granger has also been nursing a hamstring injury in the last six contests, leaving his team without another wing shooter . The bench production of Los Angeles suffered without their aforementioned presences. Their reserves finished the game hitting nine of 24 field goals for 25 total points, led by Darren Collison‘s 12 points and three assists.
If the Clippers and Thunder stand pat, then they both will remain on the same side of the playoff bracket. The second round of the Western Conference playoffs could give us a possible seven games of what many were able to witness on Wednesday night. Los Angeles will have to display efficiency, and take care of the ball, in order to slow down the attack of the Thunder, pending first round results.
Regardless of the outcome of either round, we can all get an idea of the competitive matchups that we will witness in the next couple of weeks in these Western Conference playoffs.