Los Angeles Clippers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: Postgame Grades and Analysis
A trio of Oklahoma City reserves (Nick Collison, Hasheem Thabeet and Kevin Martin), though, combined for 38 points that helped the Thunder hang around long enough for Durant and Westbrook to shoot themselves back into the game.
The Clippers, meanwhile, battled despite their own superstar, Chris Paul, struggling. Paul hit just two of his 14 field-goal attempts en route to a forgettable nine-point effort.
The Clippers' 16 offensive rebounds bought them extra possessions and helped them overcome a 10-point halftime deficit, but it wasn't enough to overcome L.A.'s continued struggles at the free-throw line (24-of-33). While they forced 19 Thunder turnovers, they committed 15 of their own.
The win improves the Thunder to 9-3, while the Clippers fall to 8-3.
Chris Paul, PG LAC: B-
Paul struggled with his shot all game long (2-of-14). A one-point first-half effort saw Paul unable to penetrate the Thunder defense. Bothered by the length of Thabo Sefolosha, who guarded him for most of the game, Paul was forced to settle for jumpers that weren't falling.
While he managed a team-high nine assists, he did appear frustrated at times and tried to create things that weren't there. His four turnovers weren't horrible, but they weren't what fans as used to seeing from him.
Defensively, he largely kept Westbrook away from the basket, and rounded out his stat line with five rebounds and four steals.
Russell Westbrook, PG OKC: B+
Westbrook's shot was hit or miss (8-of-20), but he found ways to create baskets for himself and his teammates. He saved two of his three made three-pointers for after the third quarter and scored six of his 23 points in overtime.
Given the size and athleticism of the Clippers frontcourt, his typical driving lanes weren't there. Credit also Paul and Eric Bledsoe for largely staying in front of him.
He limited his turnovers (three) and didn't often force the issue on offense.
Willie Green, SG LAC: D+
Green looked every bit an overmatched, place-holding starter. He converted the shot attempts that came his way, but those were few and far between (3-of-6 for the game).
He was a starter by definition only, as his 16-plus minutes were the fourth fewest on the team.
Thabo Sefolosha, SG OKC: B+
Sefolosha continued his hot perimeter shooting (2-of-5 from three and 54.2 percent for the season, fifth-best in the league entering the game), but his biggest impact came courtesy of coach Scott Brooks' game plan.
Brooks utilized the 6'5" Sefolosha to bother Paul into an 0-of-5, one-point first half. His assignment was to contain Paul, and that's what he did. Consider his six rebounds and two assists added bonuses.
Matt Barnes, SF LAC: A-
Starting in place of the injured Caron Butler, Barnes staked his claim for a permanent starting job.
He got off to a hot start with nine first-quarter points, but quieted down over the next two quarters. Once his shots stopped falling, he appeared hesitant to shoot at all.
Once the fourth quarter started, though, Barnes flipped his offensive switch. He attacked the basket and fought his way to the free-throw line. He hustled down loose balls and chased down rebounds (nine).
Defensively, Barnes bothered Durant about as much as any defender can. He limited Durant's open looks, cut down his dribble drives and forced him to catch the ball away from the basket.
Kevin Durant, SF OKC: B
With the pesky Barnes defending him, Durant had his own shooting woes (7-of-19). He was forced away from the basket and settled for some forced jump shots.
But the three-time defending scoring champion fought his way closer to the basket as the game went on. And his attacks earned him a game-high 21 free-throw attempts.
With Westbrook and Kevin Martin struggling to find buckets in the second half, the Thunder rode Durant's hand. The results were a little up and down, as was Durant's entire night. He couldn't buy a jumper for most of the game, but converted 19 of his free throws. He turned the ball over six times, but added six rebounds, five assists and five steals.
Durant was special down the stretch, but not nearly as special for the entire game as those 35 points would suggest.
Blake Griffin, PF LAC: B-
Because of the length and athleticism of Ibaka, Griffin was forced out of the paint more than usual. But credit him for finding points outside the lane.
With Paul struggling to find his own offense, Griffin was asked to shoulder the scoring duties to keep the Clippers within reach of the high-powered Thunder. He was able to in spurts, but not with the consistency that his team needed, finishing with 23 points on the night.
He was also one of the few Clippers who wasn't rebounding on the night. He managed just six in 38-plus minutes.
Serge Ibaka, PF OKC: A-
He rebounded well, challenged L.A.'s shots and converted the offensive chances that came his way. When his mid-range jumper is falling like it was, the Thunder look unstoppable on the offensive end.
He seamlessly transitioned between guarding Griffin on the post and Lamar Odom on the perimeter. Neither Griffin nor Odom seemed comfortable with Ibaka defending them.
His team-high 12 rebounds (six more than any of his teammates) helped the Thunder keep the rebounding battle close (45-44). Throw in his three blocked shots and Ibaka had perhaps the best two-way effort of the game.
His defensive activity ultimately led to an early departure, when he fouled out with 2:29 left in overtime.
DeAndre Jordan, C LAC: C+
Jordan struggled to be the offensive presence that the Clippers needed with Paul struggling. He made just four of his eight field-goal attempts (seemingly all coming from point blank) and never looked comfortable on the block.
But he was the best rebounding presence that coach Vinny Del Negro had. His team-leading 10 rebounds helped close defensive possessions or extend offensive trips.
Credit him for battling through Oklahoma City's Hack-a-Jordan strategy late in the fourth quarter, as the career 44.0 percent free-throw shooter converted four of his six attempts.
Kendrick Perkins, C OKC: C
Perkins did what Perkins does. He filled the Thunder interior with a physically intimidating presence that, combined with Ibaka's shot-blocking, limited the Clippers' chances at the rim.
But that was about the extent of his contributions. He's never been an offensive threat, and his lone field-goal attempt did nothing to change that fact. He also struggled to corral rebounds (four).
LAC bench: B
Jamal Crawford's production kept the Clippers in this game. Even if his stat line screamed volume shooter (20 points on 18 shots), his offensive presence carried Del Negro's team through several rough stretches.
Eric Bledsoe continued his breakout season. Thanks to his handles and quickness, he was the lone Clipper who consistently found his way to the bucket. His turnover troubles continued (four in 23-plus minutes), but his 11 points and defensive energy made those turnovers a little easier to stomach.
There was even a vintage Lamar Odom sighting. While his offensive output wasn't there (four points), his three offensive rebounds (and eight total boards) made his presence felt.
OKC bench: A
If Kevin Martin hasn't completely filled the scoring void left by James Harden, he's a beard away from doing so. He finished the game 6-of-10 for 20 points. Thanks to his 13 first-half points, Oklahoma City entered the locker room with a 10-point advantage.
Nick Collison and Hasheem Thabeet carried over the frontcourt activity to the second unit. They rotated well and affected shots at the rim.
Thabeet in particular looked as good as I'd ever seen him, ready to receive passes in the post and taking the ball up strong when his number was called.
Given that the duo combined for 18 points and nine rebounds in a little over 30 minutes, there wasn't much to complain about.
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