This one figured to be close, and it was: first quarter, Clippers by four. Halftime, Clippers by two. Third quarter, Clippers by four. This is Blake Griffin’s theater, and he did a pretty fair job of staying center stage, especially with Serge Ibaka rolling up five fouls. But the Thunder, who weren’t hitting any treys, somehow hit four of them in the fourth quarter, three of them by Caron Butler. With 72 seconds to go, OKC was up six, 113-107; a couple of Reggie Jackson free throws fifty seconds later ran the margin to eight; Griffin dunked, as Griffin will, and Jackson managed to miss the next two freebies. J. J. Redick went after the quick bucket; Russell Westbrook took it away and dropped in a free throw; Redick finally made a trey, pulling Los Angeles to within four; Jackson went back to the foul line, and this time he didn’t miss. Oklahoma City 118, Los Angeles 112, and the Thunder go up 2-1. And no, Serge never did foul out.
The Clips might be wondering just what hit them. As usual, they trailed in rebounds, though they executed five steals while the Thunder managed only one, and they had only six turnovers all night. Griffin ended up with a sterling (sorry about that) 34 points on 14-22 shooting; Chris Paul knocked down 21 points and served up 16 assists; DeAndre Jordan also checked in with a double-double, 10 points and 11 rebounds. But their prowess from down the street failed them: only seven of 26 treys made. (You have to figure that when Danny Granger hits a trey, it’s an omen, and not necessarily a good one. And that was Granger’s only make for the night.)
Meanwhile, the MVP was doing some MVPing: KD played all but two minutes, and collected 36 points. Ibaka got only one block, but he scored 20 on 9-10 shooting. Westbrook served up 13 dimes and scored 23. And the Thunder bench, inconsistent of late, was decidedly less so, with Jackson and Butler each scoring 14 and Steven Adams grabbing nine rebounds in 18 minutes. It was not a high-scoring night for anyone named Collison, though: Nick hit one shot, Darren missed all four of his.
The next Battle will be Sunday afternoon. There were five technicals called tonight, and I have to figure that nobody’s going to be on anyone’s idea of best Sunday behavior.