In a series many predicted will go the distance, a one-sided performance like the one we saw in game 1 wasn’t expected, as the Los Angeles Clippers, led by an exceptional shooting performance from Chris Paul, stole home court advantage with a 122-105 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Thunder actually started out pretty decently. It’s rare to see them lose games when Russell Westbrook hits over 50% of his field goal attempts and Kevin Durant does well from the field as well. But Reggie Jackson and Caron Butler, two players the Thunder need to do at least reasonably well to go far in these playoffs were a combined 2-of-15 from the field. On some nights that might pass, but not when the Clippers and especially Paul can’t miss.
Paul scored 32 points to go with 10 assists, hitting 12-of-14 from the field and 8-of-9 from beyond the arc. We usually don’t think of Paul as a long range assassin but he seized his opportunity and the distance given to him by Russell Westbrook and seven other Thunder defenders, scoring 28 points on pull-up jumpers, almost four-times his regular season average and more than double his production with that shot in the playoffs.
Sometimes that’s all it takes, although the Clippers had plenty of minutes when their defense did the job as well. DeAndre Jordan had four steals, Russell Westbrook had six turnovers and the Thunder couldn’t get their role players open, although we also had plenty of wide open shots being missed by the Jackson-Butler tandem we mentioned before. The Clippers had no problem making shots, shooting 54.9% from the field and 51.7% from beyond the arc, making a mockery of the Thunder’s usually effective half-court defense.
Blake Griffin had 23 points including 9-of-12 from the line. DeAndre Jordan, another player the Thunder kept sending to shoot free throws, wasn’t as successful with 1-of-8, but this game was pretty much over at half time. Sometimes there’s this notion that Durant and Westbrook can bring back the team from any deficit. They did combine to score 54 points with Westbrook leading, but both of them looked displeased and discouraged during the second half.
This one of those nights when all the Westbrook haters came out to celebrate. Not about his shooting, but his frustration growing with every Paul dagger. Westbrook even took a seat outside a team huddle at one point, although one might guess that Scott Brooks, not the most innovative and creative of head coaches, had anything new to say but iso for Durant or Westbrook. The only way to really get to Westbrook is frustrating him by scoring on him and making him run around.
The Clippers have been up and down with their shooting in the postseason, and the Thunder won’t look so lethargic for a second consecutive game, not at home. Carefully predicting Chris Paul won’t be able to put on another shooting show like this one in the span of two days, being a lot better on the offensive glass and getting Jordan a bit more involved should be something the Clippers work on in an attempt to take a two-game lead.