One of the more interesting and growing rivalries in the NBA is the one between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers. As their latest meeting suggests, as long as Kevin Durant doesn’t really have someone capable of slowing him down or protecting the paint from his shooting ability, it’s quite easy to guess who is going to dominate the matchups most of the time.
Durant finished with 28 points on 10-of-19 from the field, adding 6 rebounds and 8 assists, with the Thunder avenging their loss in Los Angeles two weeks ago. Unlike last time, we didn’t see too much bad blood between Blake Griffin and Serge Ibaka. With the big man not getting ejected, the simplistic and unintelligent offense the Clippers run couldn’t really find an easy way to the basket against Ibaka’s excellent defense.
On the other side of the floor, the Thunder didn’t find it too difficult to find creases and openings in a team that tries to take pride in its defense but rarely puts on a consistent show of it, leading to the 105-91 win, keeping the Thunder perfect when playing at the Chesapeake Energy Arena., and not even a sixth consecutive 20-10 night from Blake Griffin (27 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists) could change the outcome.
Chris Paul was the other player to finish with a double-double, scoring 17 points and dishing out 12 assists. Even by outplaying Russell Westbrook, something that doesn’t always happen, Paul wasn’t good enough to change the flow of the game towards the Clippers, who looked helpless on offense on too many possessions and especially during the fourth quarter, finding it quite difficult to find easy shots. They were limited to only 41.3% from the field, which included a very tough joint-night for Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick, combining to shoot only 6-of-20 from the field.
On the other side, things went quite well for the Thunder, even if Russell Westbrook was on one of his off days. He scored 12 points on a night he felt he could be selfish on, shooting 0-of-6 from beyond the arc, failing to realize that by penetrating the easy to slice Clippers defense he could end up with another impressive scoring performance, like in his previous three games (averaged 29 points), or simply not caring too much.
Scott Brooks – I thought that was probably as well as we can execute a game plan and execute on both ends of the floor, on offense and defense in the second half. Seventeen assists and five turnovers in the second half, and we made them miss a lot of shots. I thought we played good throughout the game, but really did a great job in the second half.
Doc Rivers – In the first quarter, you could see we didn’t have it offensively. Everybody was kind of missing shots. We didn’t have any rhythm, no speed. When we don’t have any pace by anybody, you know that’s not a good sign. We didn’t tonight.
The Thunder haven’t changed. The pro version of Kentucky under John Calipari, they’re usually talented and athletic enough to overcome their simplistic offensive basketball and lack of in-game coaching to look dominant, especially against a Clippers team that’s talented, but needs a coaching and gameplan advantage to get actually far in the playoffs.
There are no secrets about Oklahoma City, so when Kevin Durant scores so easily time and time again, eyes immediately turn to the opposing head coach, Doc Rivers. This year, which is something not everyone realizes, might help determine if he’s actually a good-great NBA coach, or was his strong run with the Celtics about getting lucky with landing Garnett and Ray Allen.