It’s sobering to think what might have happened if Chris Paul had had a good night. As it stands, the Clippers collected second-chance points with great vigor and rolled up foul shots in the fourth quarter even DeAndre Jordan, who never makes free throws, was making free throws and Jamal Crawford, a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year contender, was living up to his billing. The Thunder got the lead midway through the first quarter, ran it into double digits several times, only to see the Clips tie it with 36 seconds left. A Russell Westbrook jumper clanged short; CP3 was ready to close it out in his own inimitable fashion, but his last-second shot failed to connect. At the time, he was 1-12. (That’s what we have Thabo Sefolosha for.) He ended up at 2-14 as the Clips, who’d garnered 33 points in the fourth quarter, were held to seven in overtime, and the Thunder, sweaty but happy, killed L.A.’s streak at six with a 117-111 win.
Did we mention second-chance points? Los Angeles took 14 more shots than OKC, though they made only four more. Caron Butler was missing in action, but Matt Barnes subbed with distinction, recording 19 points and nine boards before fouling out. Blake Griffin led the Clips with 23, though he posted a team-low -12. Crawford had 20 from the bench. (CP3 scored nine, five of them from the foul line.) And Jordan pulled off a double-double, 12 points and 10 rebounds. On most nights, this would be enough to beat anybody.
But this wasn’t a night like that. The return of Durant/Westbrook as Batman and Robin was the story in the bonus period, accounting for all 15 points (KD had nine, Westbrook six). KD hit his season high: 35 points. Westbrook had 23; Kevin Martin, steady as always, paced the bench with 20; Serge Ibaka collected a double-double (15 points, 12 boards) before fouling out. And something you’ve seldom seen before: Hasheem Thabeet in double figures. Okay, it was just ten, but still: Hasheem the Dream in double figures. Those of us who wondered what Sam Presti was up to, dealing for this guy, will get an extra serving of crow tomorrow.
Still, these Clippers are no slouches. And they’ve pretty much buried the Other Team in L.A. business. (The Clips are now 8-3; the Lakers were 6-5 going into tonight’s game with the Kings.) On the upside, we only have to play them twice more; unfortunately, both those games are at Staples.
Friday at Boston, Saturday at Philadelphia. Winnable, yes; a walk, not even.