"We need to learn how to play with a lead," Baron Davis said at the end of the Clippers win over the Thunder. On the heels of a 22 point lead that they saw turn into a 15 point loss to the Toronto Raptors, the Clipper point guard knew of what he spoke.
Generally speaking, you can fit NBA teams into these categories, from bottom to top:
The Clippers are looking to make the tough transition from the lower categories to at least the playoff-bound category. They have been working on making that transition for a while haven't they? One of the main ingredients in teams that move up in those categories is quality. Quality plays by quality players who are part of a quality team will lead to movement up towards elite status.
Understanding how to play with a lead is a quality component. Quality teams know how to keep the foot on the accelerator when they have a lead. The Clippers didn't show that component against Toronto but they showed it tonight against Oklahoma City Thunder.
Baron Davis has not had a steller LA Clipper career thus far but he outplayed the Thunders Russel Westbrook in the last two minutes of this game. Davis was either looking for Chris Kaman (who is fast becoming the go-to player the Clippers have lacked since Elton Brand's defection) or taking and making big shots. Quality decisions by a quality player.
Westbook, on the other hand, mistakenly tried to take over the game in the same two minute span. He went 0-for-2 shooting while ignoring the Thunders go-to guy Kevin Durant who happened to have 40 points! Poor decisions by a team struggling to find consistency.
Quality decisions, if repeated over time, will take the Clippers far. One game does not make or break a season, but it was nice to see a quality win, especially on the heels of a tough loss.