Chris Paul dashing through the Oklahoma City Thunder defense looked like it’ll end with a smile for the Clippers, and it did. The Thunder are usually great in the clutch, especially on defense, but something about that zone they tried just didn’t work. Maybe they actually feared Paul might dish it to someone else, but he took it all on himself all night.
Paul finished with 31 points and only 4 assists, on a night he forgot about point guard duties and spreading the ball. Being the best player and the best creator for others and himself on the Los Angeles Clippers team, with the rest of the guys shooting 44% from the field, Paul decided he’ll win this game through scoring.
We know the Clippers can look like a great team on certain nights. Having an inconsistent defense means that on some nights there will be enough effort to carry them through. Nick Young and Kenyon Martin gave some much needed offense from the bench. In these games, which are very playoff like at this stage of this season, it’s about the unexpected production from certain players. The Thunder had none of that from player not called Durant, Westbrook and Harden.
And I wonder if Serge Ibaka will be offended by squaring off with Blake Griffin and losing, like Perkins did not too long ago. And with every incredible dunk Griffin performs, I’m more disappointed in him for not taking another step forward. I know it’s been a short official offseason, but it seems he hasn’t taken a step forward during the time he’s had. Over relying on your athleticism, that tends to run out at a certain point, isn’t what many had in mind for the Oklahoma native.
For the Thunder, it was blaming it on bad shooting. To be honest, the Clippers didn’t play THAT good of defense. Durant and Westbrook both finished with over 20 points, but combined for 10-35 from the field. But the worst thing for the Thunder was their defense. No aggression, on one trying to force Chris Paul out of anything comfortable. Relying on great shooting doesn’t work very well each night.
So are the Clippers the kind of team that can beat the Thunder in a series? Ranked #4 in the West, that should put them on a direct trajectory with the Thunder in the conference Semi Finals, if that’s how things play out. Memphis look like legit contenders on certain nights, a team no one in the West wants to face now that they have both Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph healthy.
But as much as Chris Paul has been playing at an incredible level this season, especially when forced to close out games, reclaiming the best point guard in the league title while Derrick Rose hasn’t decided about his fitness this season, there just isn’t enough around him in terms of creativity, experience and doing what it takes to win each night against the best in the league, meaning great defense, to actually do something special in the postseason.