It was a fairly typical 3-2, sometimes 1-2-2, zone, but for the Thunder it might as well have been the Twilight Zone: in seven minutes in the fourth quarter they’d piled up only seven points, as their 19-point lead over the Clippers shrank to two, and with 89 seconds left, the Clips completed a seven-point possession, no thanks to a flagrant-1 foul on Serge Ibaka against Blake Griffin, to take their first lead of the game. Revenge came in half a minute: Ibaka finished a nice layup with an and-one as Griffin fouled out. Los Angeles pulled back to within two in the last second on a Chris Paul bank shot: CP3 fouled Kevin Durant on the inbound, and KD calmly put it out of reach, 108-104.
The numbers, as you might expect, were pretty close: shooting, OKC 47.5, LAC 46.3; rebounds, LAC 41, OKC 38; assists, OKC 23, LAC 22. The point guards: Russell Westbrook 29 points/10 assists/6 rebounds, Chris Paul 26 points/8 assists/6 rebounds. The difference, it appears, was sheer persistence. There have been times when Thunder teams, faced with a seven-point turnaround like that, would roll up into a ball and disappear into the corner. This is not one of those teams.
Still, props to the L.A. bench, one of the best out there; they contributed 40 points — 20 from Jamal Crawford — and all but one of the Clips’ nine made threes. And it was the reserves who whittled down that big OKC lead before the starters returned in the fourth quarter. They’re a joy to watch, when they’re playing someone else.
We go now from “Beat L.A.” to “Beat L.A.,” with a Lakers-Thunder game at the ‘Peake on Tuesday at a made-for-television 8:30. What can I say? It’s March.