The joys of payback

It was halftime at the Big C, and glumness was in the air: the Clippers were out front, 67-54, and most of the mistakes OKC had made in Los Angeles, they made on their home court. Radio guy Matt Pinto, apart from raising his voice now and then to complain about the officiating, seemed unusually taciturn.

Then something happened, something no one was anticipating, something that for all we know involved Doc Rivers pissing off a deity. The third quarter opened with a Thunder run. A 21-2 Thunder run. By the time twelve minutes had passed, OKC had swept up 39 points, leaving only ten for the Clippers. And the Thunder maintained a double-digit lead right down to the horn. It was 128-110 at the end, and if you heard some vague meteorological phenomenon towards the end there, you might want to ask Doc if the curse had been lifted.

And yet. Danilo Gallinari, always a threat, rolled up 27 points to lead the Clips. Sixth man nonpareil Lou Williams was his usual methodical self. Yet the two of them in aggregate were minus-30 for the night. There were technical fouls galore: to absolutely no one’s surprise, Patrick Beverley and Russell Westbrook split a pair. But Beverley got rung up for a flagrant after trying to hatchet Westbrook’s kneecaps, and he just wasn’t the same after that. Meanwhile, Westbrook was piling up 32 points without getting a double-double. (Paul George did get one: 32 points, 12 rebounds. Steven Adams got one too, with 18/10. And while the Thunder are still below par at the charity stripe, they did knock down 23 of 32 for 72 percent. (The Clippers hit 33-43 for 77 percent. If this sounds like a hell of a lot of fouls, well, it was a hell of a lot of fouls.) OKC shot 51 percent from the field, and good things happen when you’re not constantly jacking up treys: nine of 17. Too often we’ve seen this club hit nine out of 30, or worse.

Anyway, that’s the first payback of the year so far. Now comes a quick trip to the East, and the word that OKC has picked up the third-year option for Terrance Ferguson. It didn’t hurt that the Fergster was +34 tonight. Damned few players can do that while making only one shot.

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