At their best, this is what the Oklahoma City Thunder look like. Maybe their defense could do a better job, but the Los Angeles Clippers aren’t exactly scrubs. It doesn’t matter. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are in unstoppable mode, leading to a 118-112 win and taking a 2-1 lead in the series.
After getting somewhat shell-shocked in game 1, the Thunder are back in their mid-season form only with a healthy and scorching Russell Westbrook to complement the league’s MVP. Durant scored 36 points on 14-of-24 from the field, deciding that this time he’ll do it from up close. The Clippers have been struggling with penetrations and rotations, so Durant makes the most of it, scoring 20 points from 10 feet or closer in the win.
He has been at his best with Matt Barnes trying to slow him down. He shot 6-of-10 from the field with Barnes on him in game 3 and is 18-of-30 (60%) for 46 points in the series. But it’s more than just one guy. Westbrook has been excellent in the series so far, as it seems that not having to face the Grizzlies defense is allowing him and Durant to play like the best tandem on the planet once again. Westbrook had 23 points and 13 assists, including a huge 3-pointer to kill off the last hope for the Clippers of coming back.
It was a great game from Chris Paul with 21 points, 16 turnovers and 0 assists. It was the first time since Magic Johnson in 1991 that a player had a 20-15 game without a single turnover. The problems began when he came off the floor, which wasn’t often (42 minutes). Darren Collison is doing badly in the postseason so far after getting used to a starting spot, an the rest of the second unit, when they play, are awful. Jamal Crawford is in something of a different level to them, but he was only 6-of-18 from the field, and the Clippers weren’t able to get anything from J.J. Redick as well.
The Thunder had their role players clicking. Serge Ibaka gets the focus for his battles with Blake Griffin (blooding his nose with an elbow) under the rim, but he was close to flawless with 20 points on 9-of-10 from the field. Reggie Jackson scored 14 points and so did Caron Butler. As the Memphis series proved, it’s when the role players get their points that the Thunder become the scary team we saw before the All-Star break.
Blake Griffin had a big night with 34 points, but big scoring games from Paul and Griffin won’t matter. If the Clippers can’t start freeing up shooters – be it Redick or guys like Danny Granger and Jared Dudley off the bench, turning into non-factors, they don’t have the defense to pull off the upset in this series. The deeper we go in the series, the more it seems like the game 1 win was because of a freak shooting night from Chris Paul.
This is a physical, filled with emotion and some hatred kind of series. It seems like the Clippers are letting it get to them more than the Thunder. Maybe getting the MVP calmed everything down for the Thunder after a rough series against Memphis and a discouraging game 1 vs the Clippers. Since then, everyone has been playing their part, and the Thunder once again look like a team no one wants a piece of.