Game 2 of the Conference semifinals has two home teams in the same situation: Avoiding getting into big trouble, as the Oklahoma City Thunder try to bounce back from the opening loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, and the same goes for the Indiana Pacers, hoping to even things out against the Washington Wizards.
The Oklahoma City Thunder might be enjoying their MVP moment for Kevin Durant, but that won’t last long. They were beaten by 17 points in the first game and it even wasn’t that close. Sure, the bottom line might have suggested that it was a freak shooting day from Chris Paul, but it goes beyond that. The Clippers got the shots they wanted, had no problem dominating in the paint and frustrated the Thunder to a point where Russell Westbrook stops paying attention to what his coach was saying, regardless of how well he was or wasn’t playing.
Westbrook had a good game, but one of the best things about him is the short memory. Selfish, arrogant and great players often have one. No matter how much the Clippers hounded him in terms of attacking him as the defender, it won’t make him play any differently or go on the court with any less confidence. The Thunder need more from others. Reggie Jackson and Caron Butler didn’t show up, and despite their incredible ability on some nights, Durant and Westbrook aren’t winning this series on their own.
As for the Clippers, it’s not going to be another historic performance from Paul. Going to Griffin and Jordan early, even if it results in bad numbers from the line, opens up so many things later on for them, including open shots from long range. This team hasn’t shown consistency in the postseason, especially on defense. Now is the time, even if it means giving Durant and Westbrook a lot of one on one looks, in which they’re almost unstoppable to actually stop.
Things are a little less explosive in Indiana, although that depends on what you call explosive. The rumor mill is working extra time, trying to figure out what’s bugging Roy Hibbert. There’s the suggestion that Paul George sleeping with Hibbert’s fiance is the cause for everything, but right now that isn’t a serious way of looking at it. It seems that the Pacers go as far as Hibbert takes them, and another all-time awful performance from him is going to end up being too much for them to overcome.
The Wizards have a great thing going for them with Nene and Gortat. Right now they’re dominating in the paint, while Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza are enjoying playing against players without any support from behind. It immediately opens up things on the perimeter, while John Wall won’t have another bad shooting night. The Pacers need to find their groove again defensively, not to mention somehow find a way to get a disappointment like Evan Turner involved.