The Los Angeles Clippers dominated the Oklahoma City Thunder 122-105 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals Monday night.
On a night when Doc Rivers' offense was clicking on all cylinders, Chris Paul stole the show behind 32 points on 12-of-14 shooting and a staggering 8-of-9 shooting from three. Paul also recorded a double-double by dishing out 10 assists while posting a team-best plus/minus rating of plus-26.
After exploding for 39 points in the opening frame, the Clippers continued to wreak havoc on Oklahoma City's defense, dropping 30 points in the second quarter and then 35 in the third period to pull away for good.
"We just had one of those nights," Rivers told reporters following the win, according to CBS Sports' and Daily Thunder's Royce Young.
All told, the Clippers shot 54.9 percent from the field and 51.7 percent from three. Conversely, the Thunder shot 45.9 percent from the field and 32.1 percent from beyond the arc.
Players are graded on a conventional A to F scale, with each contributor starting at a C and moving up or down based on the quality of his performance.
However, it's important to note that role players and reserves are graded on a curve due to their smaller allotment of minutes.
Key Players: Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant, Small Forward
Overshadowed by Chris Paul's scoring outburst in the game's opening frame, Durant actually did quite well for himself in 12 first-quarter minutes, scoring 10 points while dishing out three assists.
The points would continue to flow for Durant, which shouldn't have come as a major surprise considering he shot 45 percent from the field when guarded by Matt Barnes during the regular season, according to NBA.com.
Despite posting a team-worst plus/minus rating of minus-26 in 35 minutes, Durant remained relatively efficient, scoring 25 points on 9-of-19 shooting (2-of-5 from three). Four rebounds and four assists capped off the MVP's Game 1 line.
Russell Westbrook, Point Guard
With the Thunder trailing by 19 points at the eight-minute mark in the second quarter, Oklahoma City desperately needed Westbrook to get aggressive and attack the rim.
And while he appeared to be willing to accept the challenge, Westbrook continued to mix the good with the bad. Despite posting up on the low block and making decisive moves toward the basket, he continued to act careless with the ball, committing a game-high six turnovers (including five in the first half). As a team, the Clippers turned the ball over just eight times.
Not only that, but Westbrook's defense was downright deplorable. And because he was unable to corral Darren Collison, the Clippers actually extended their lead with Paul on the bench.
The good news is that he remained efficient, scoring a team-high 29 points on 9-of-14 shooting (9-of-10 from the free-throw line) while dishing out four assists and pulling down four rebounds.
It was another classic hot-and-cold performance from Westbrook, who continues to perplex with his breathtaking physical abilities one moment and questionable decision-making the next.
Serge Ibaka, Power Forward
Serge Ibaka did a nice job limiting Blake Griffin to 40 percent shooting from the field during the regular season, according to NBA.com's stats database, so the onus was on the versatile Oklahoma City big man to hold the Clips' high-flyer in check once again.
But, boy, was Griffin unafraid of sizing up Ibaka early on, taking him to task outside the paint to the tune of a couple of pretty jump shots off the glass during the game's opening stages.
Credit Ibaka for striking right back, though, and helping propel the Thunder on a 9-0 run, during which he scored six points on 3-of-5 shooting.
Overall, Ibaka did a good job of preventing Griffin from getting into a comfortable rhythm and acquitted himself nicely by racking up 12 points (6-of-9 shooting), six rebounds, two blocks and a steal.
As Steve Kerr put it late in the third quarter, Ibaka has become a "bottle of consistency."
Reggie Jackson, Sixth Man
In order to keep pace with the Clippers on a night when they dropped 104 points in just three quarters, the Thunder could have really used a breakout effort from Reggie Jackson.
Unfortunately, it wasn't in the cards.
Jackson—like so many of his fellow second-unit peers—came up terribly small, generating four points on 1-of-8 shooting in 30 minutes. He also committed four fouls in his first 18 minutes and dropped a team-high five dimes.
After scoring at least 16 points in three of the Thunder's last four games against the Memphis Grizzlies, Jackson appears to have fallen back to earth.
Thabo Sefolosha, Shooting Guard
Head coach Scott Brooks didn't hesitate to reinsert Thabo Sefolosha back into the starting lineup, citing some very sound logic prior to tipoff.
Redick wound up winning that small first-quarter battle in a knockout, scoring seven points on 3-of-4 shooting in 10 early minutes, which set the tone for Sefolosha's entire night.
Sefolosha went on to finish with a pedestrian line consisting of five points (2-of-3 shooting), two rebounds and just one steal.
Kendrick Perkins, Center
As if you expected anything different. Kendrick Perkins provided the most standard of performances Monday evening.
In 14 minutes, Perkins mustered three points, three rebounds and an assist. Equaling DeAndre Jordan's energy on the glass will prove to be a tall task for a physically and athletically overmatched center who would prefer to remain set in the post and defend post-ups.
Instead, Perkins will be forced to deal with Jordan's elite hops and quick feet in the pick-and-roll.
Although neither team's bench was particularly stellar, efforts from Oklahoma City's second unit were positively futile.
Not only was Jackson a non-factor before the game got out of hand, but Caron Butler also struggled from the perimeter, shooting 1-of-7 from the field, including 1-of-4 from three.
Perry Jones and Jeremy Lamb were the lone bright spots, adding eight points apiece in garbage time.
Nick Collison and Steven Adams were virtual non-factors.
Key Players: Los Angeles Clippers
Chris Paul, Point Guard
With a gimpy hamstring that's appeared to limit his mobility at times, questions abounded surrounding Paul's ability to keep pace with Westbrook and the Thunder's high-octane attack.
Those questions can now be put to rest, because Paul displayed the composure and tenacity we've come to know and love.
Whether he was spotting up and hitting threes (he had five in the first quarter and didn't miss one during that span) or pulling up off the dribble, Paul was clearly locked in.
A first quarter line that boasted 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting would have been strong enough for 48 minutes, much less 12, but Paul didn't stop there.
Whether he was being guarded by Westbrook or Derek Fisher, Paul didn't seem to care. Rising and firing with ease, Paul channeled his inner Michael Jordan en route to 22 first-half points (8-of-9 shooting, 6-of-6 from three).
Paul's performance radiated the essence of basketball nirvana throughout Chesapeake Energy Arena, and it was a night that reminded fans and prognosticators alike that the Clippers remain viable title contenders thanks to their point guard's brilliant capabilities.
Blake Griffin, Power Forward
Griffin didn't dominate from an offensive standpoint, but he didn't really need to given how hot the Clippers' shooters were.
A couple of deep jump shots to open things up provided hope that Griffin will be able to face up against the lengthy Ibaka, but an efficient showing wasn't in the cards for L.A.'s power forward in Game 1.
Griffin totaled a respectable 23 points, but did so on 7-of-16 shooting, including 9-of-12 shooting from the charity stripe.
On a more positive note, Griffin didn't need to be scoring to help the offense flow, as he dished out five assists while committing just one turnover.
He also pulled down five rebounds in 31 minutes.
DeAndre Jordan, Center
Jordan was his usual, energetic self against the Thunder, and it would have been foolish to expect anything less from the regular season's leading rebounder.
Following a breakout series against the Golden State Warriors, Jordan didn't take his foot off the pedal from an intensity standpoint, although his offensive impact was admittedly mitigated by the Clippers' perimeter bombardment of the Thunder.
Per usual, Jordan remained productive thanks to a steady diet of lobs, and he tallied seven points (3-of-3 from the field, 1-of-8 from the line) to go with five rebounds and four steals.
Jamal Crawford, Sixth Man
Working primarily against Fisher in the first half, Jamal Crawford sought to fill up the scoresheet in a hurry.
Scoring at a point-per-minute rate during his first six minutes off the bench, Crawford looked active and determined to hoist jumpers off the catch or off the dribble, using his speed and size to overwhelm the 39-year-old.
The aggression would wane before the instant offense machine returned in garbage time, and the 2013-14 Sixth Man of the Year went on to record 17 points (6-of-11 shooting, 3-of-6 from three) in 19 minutes off the pine.
J.J. Redick, Shooting Guard
As previously mentioned, the highlight of Redick's night came during an efficient first-quarter showing that amounted to seven points on 75 percent shooting.
However, the more important takeaway may have been the fact that Redick continually forced the Thunder defense to fly around the floor and keep track of the Clippers' arsenal of shooters.
On an evening when the Clippers shredded Oklahoma City's defensive efforts on the wing, Redick played his part and contributed a steady offensive punch by scoring 12 points (5-of-8 shooting, 1-of-2 from three) and three assists to go with a steal.
Matt Barnes, Small Forward
Arguably the series' most overlooked X-factor, Matt Barnes demonstrated why his scoring (in addition to defense on Durant) will be crucial to staving off a potent Thunder offense.
While Barnes is primarily considered a defensive irritant and professional instigator, he's capable of swinging things in the Clippers' favor with his perimeter scoring capabilities.
All told, Barnes scored 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting and dropped in seven during the Clippers' 39-point effort in the first quarter.
Aside from Crawford, Danny Granger, Jared Dudley, Darren Collison and Glen Davis all saw rotational minutes off the bench.
None made a profound impact, but as previously mentioned, Collison helped expose some of Westbrook's defensive deficiencies by scoring four first-half points on two easy drives to the cup. He would finish with five points in relief of Paul.
Granger and Davis chipped in five and six points, respectively.
What's Up Next?
Game 2 will tip off at 9:30 p.m. ET Wednesday night from Oklahoma City. The game will be broadcast on TNT.
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