You’re forgiven if you weren’t thinking of the Los Angeles Clippers as a defense-minded outfit. I mean, yeah, they have Blake Griffin, though he’s known more for dunkaliciousness. But Blake was hauling in the rebounds left and right tonight he finished with 12 and Chris Paul, held to seven points in the first half, exploded; the Clips held the Thunder to a mere 13 points in ten minutes and took a five-point lead at the two-minute mark. Then Serge Ibaka did one of his patented Air Congo dunks, and Kevin Durant fired a three-pointer right over Griffin’s scalp, and suddenly with 32 seconds left, it was tied at 98. CP3 was not done yet: he managed to use just over 23 seconds to drive to the rim for a layup, Durant backrimmed a trey, and the Blakers, who always seem to have the Thunder’s number, pulled off a 100-98 win.
By “exploded,” incidentally, I mean “24 points in the second half.” That’s 31 for Paul. Then again, the Clips’ big push in the fourth started with the second unit, while Paul rested for the stretch run. Reserve swingman Nick Young, in fact, had the highest plus/minus of the night: +11. The Clips outshot the Thunder, 47-41 percent, though OKC had two more rebounds. (And the Thunder made 12 of 26 treys, though the question remains: why are they trying 26 treys?) L. A. didn’t get to the foul line that often, but they made 19 of 21, not bad for a team that is known for clanking them. (Even Griffin, arguably the worst, only missed one.)
The problem for OKC was too many shots that didn’t go anywhere useful, although you can probably thank the Clippers for some of that. Durant went 7-21; Russell Westbrook was 3-14. (Westbrook did put up 15 free throws, making 13 of them.) I mean, when your most efficient offense comes from Derek Fisher 3-5, 2-2 from three, 8 points in less than 15 minutes someone needs to raise the You’re Doing It Wrong flag. All the role-playing guys played their roles; it’s just that the stars were misaligned, or out of position, or something.
The Kings will be here Friday night. Saturday night, it’s off to Minnesota. As Scott Brooks might say, these guys can play. We’ll see the Clippers once more, at the Staples Center, as if having to play the Lakers there once more wasn’t bad enough.