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Clippers vs. Thunder: Score, Highlights and Reaction from 2016 Regular Season

Danny Webster@@DannyWebster21Analyst IIIApril 1, 2016

Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford (11) shoots a three point ball between Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) and  guard Andre Roberson (21) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Thursday, March 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
Alonzo Adams/Associated Press

Kevin Durant scored a team-high 31 points, and Russell Westbrook had 26 points and 11 assists as the Oklahoma City Thunder withstood hot shooting nights from Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers to defeat the short-handed Los Angeles Clippers, 119-117, on Thursday night in Oklahoma City.

Rivers and Crawford both scored 32 points to keep the Clippers in the game. They picked up the scoring in the absence of Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and DeAndre Jordan, who all sat out for rest.

Despite the big nights for the Thunder duo, big man Steven Adams' tip-in with 26 seconds remaining off a Westbrook missed jumper was the deciding factor in the game.

Westbrook and Durant were two of five Thunder players to score in double figures. Serge Ibaka had 16 points to go with nine rebounds, Adams scored 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting and backup big man Enes Kanter had 11 points.

The majority of the game belonged to the likes of Crawford and Rivers. Crawford went 7-of-10 in the first half, made four three-pointers and scored 23 points in 18 minutes. Rivers, meanwhile, also had an efficient half with four three-pointers and 17 points.

Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman noted how efficient the two Clippers guards were in such a short amount of time:

Anthony Slater @anthonyVslater

Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers combined in the first 17 minutes: 29 points on 11-of-15 shooting, 6-of-6 from 3.

But defense did not dominate the game. As Rivers and Crawford carried the Clippers in the absence of their stars, the Thunder's Big Three of Westbrook, Durant and Ibaka scored 43 of Oklahoma City's 65 first-half points, though the Thunder found themselves trailing 69-65 at halftime.

The Clippers and Thunder shot 63 and 58 percent, respectively, in the first 24 minutes, but the difference was Los Angeles' 9-of-13 mark from three-point range, while the Thunder missed nine of their 13 attempts.

Complex Sports described the game as a team taking on a one-man show:

Complex Sports @ComplexSports

The Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Jamal Crawford

As the second half progressed, the thought of a Clippers letdown loomed. Crawford and Rivers continued to make baskets, and Los Angeles got a boost off the bench from Jeff Green, who scored 19 points against his former team.

The game didn't make sense in the eyes of The Cauldron's Andy Glockner:

Linguistic Quirks @AndyGlockner

This is surreal. The Clippers' reserves are on Straight YOLO.

But with Paul out of action, the Clippers were missing a reliable floor general and capable defender on Westbrook. Not having that veteran savvy of Paul for the Clippers resulted into easy, highlight reel dunks like this for Westbrook:

Despite the scoring onslaught from the Clippers, the 2013-14 NBA MVP kept the Thunder in the game. For the last 60 games, Durant's ability to keep the Thunder in games hasn't been a surprise, per ESPN Stats & Info:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Kevin Durant has his 60th consecutive game with at least 20 points

Part of the scoring push came on this alley-oop from Westbrook to Durant late in the fourth quarter:

The back-and-forth affair carried over into the fourth quarter, with neither team establishing distance from the other. After going without a basket for the first 9:35 of the fourth quarter, Westbrook made the two biggest shots of the game: a three-pointer and an 18-foot jumper to tie the game at 117-117.

After Adams' tip-in, Rivers tried to tie the game on a tough layup attempt at the rim, but it was offand the Thunder were able to escape with the victory.

Without three of their stars, the Clippers put up a strong offensive performance, mainly thanks to Crawford and Rivers. But down the stretch, they could have used the likes of Redick or Paul. Nevertheless, the Clippers have to feel encouraged.

Oklahoma City's defense was a glaring issue throughout the night, but the Thunder's magic number to clinch the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference is down to one. Although it wasn't the team's best all-around performance, Oklahoma City came away one win closer to guaranteeing home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Postgame Reaction

It's not often Adams has hit game-winning shots in his career, but don't let him tell you that, per Slater:

Anthony Slater @anthonyVslater

Steven Adams asked if he'd ever had a game-winner: "Back in high school..That's a lie. But you guys don't know that" https://t.co/YfTmm5jd7P

That tip-in by Adams is what prevented the Clippers from pulling off a major late-season upset, and that was a microcosm to an all-around tough rebounding night for L.A., who got outrebounded 46-26 and gave up 17 OKC offensive rebounds.

“I told our guys before the game, we’re resting those guys, we’re not resting the whole team," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, per Rowan Kavner of Clippers.com. "We’re coming to win the game."

Despite that rebounding advantage, the Thunder made the crucial hustle plays toward the end of the game, and Thunder head coach Billy Donovan praised his high-motored point guard, per Slater:

Anthony Slater @anthonyVslater

Billy Donovan on Russell Westbrook: "I've seen a lot of guys play, he's the best loose ball guy I've ever seen."

There is good news on the horizon for the Clippers, however. All-Star forward Blake Griffin is expected to return soon from injuries that kept him out for more than half the season. The Clippers did well in Griffin's absence, per Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:

Dan Woike @DanWoikeSports

Clippers go 30-15 without Blake Griffin

Although they didn't get the win with their three starters out, Doc was pleased with his team's effort.

"Our bench believes they can beat starters," Rivers said, per Kavner. "That’s a good thing.”

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