Right off the bat, you get the Telltale Statistic: the Clippers executed 11 steals tonight, the Thunder only five, and two of those came very late. That level of non-defense undid Oklahoma City early: seven minutes in, L. A. was up 28-11. There was enough rally in the Thunder to tie it a couple of times in the second quarter, but there was no stopping the Clips, even without Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford; things were so dire for OKC that they had to resort to fouling DeAndre Jordan. (Jordan took it in stride, hitting 12 of 22, 15 percentage points above his average from the stripe.) Eventually, Loud City was bored enough, or demoralized enough, to yell at head zebra Joey Crawford to pull up his damn pants already. The Clippers won the game, 120-108, and the season series, 2-1, and the Thunder fell half a game behind the New Orleans Pelicans for the eighth and last playoff spot.
The numbers, except for steals and turnovers (OKC 20, Clippers 14) were actually pretty close: the Thunder got one more rebound (39-38), the Clips three more assists (22-19), and while there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Los Angeles longball, their 15-30 was only a tick or two above the Thunder’s 12-25. Maybe it was who got those treys: Chris Paul was 5-8, Matt Barnes 6-7, J. J. Redick 3-6, and somewhere Spencer Hawes made one. So it’s no surprise that CP3 ended up with 33 points, Barnes with 22, and Redick with 25. Meanwhile, Jordan was collecting those freebies and reeling in 18 points and 17 boards.
Maybe a Westbrook triple-double would have helped, but Russ was merely good, not great: 24-9-7, and a whopping 10 of those 20 OKC turnovers. He had help offensively: Anthony Morrow came up with 26 off the bench, including 6-9 from outside, and Enes Kanter and Serge Ibaka added 18 and 15 respectively. Just don’t look at the plus/minus: all the Thunder starters were minus, all the reserves were plus, and the opposite was true for Los Angeles.
The newly revitalized Minnesota Timberwolves will show up Friday night: some of their long-injured players are injured no longer, and, well, Kevin Garnett. You don’t, or at least I don’t, bet against the Big Ticket.