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Kevin Durant delivers daggers as the Thunder roll over the Clippers

Jan 23, 2013, 2:32 AM EST

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Clippers Getty Images

In a big road test against the Los Angeles Clippers for Western Conference supremacy, Kevin Durant was unproductive and almost non-existent to start the game. Those aren’t words you typically use to describe Durant at any point, but it was inexplicably true. The league’s leading scorer was quiet throughout the first quarter, scoring only one lonely bucket.

The slow start spurred a few lines of thought. Maybe the Clippers really did have Durant’s number. Did it make any sense? No, but how do the Bobcats have an all-time series advantage over the Lakers? These things don’t always have to make sense. And after all, Durant had shot just 21-for-58 (36 percent) and turned it over 13 times in his last three games against the Clippers. Maybe something was going on here.

As it turned out, the perfect storm wasn’t brewing for the Clippers — it was just the calm before the storm for Durant, who turned it on late in an impressive 109-97 victory.

While there are many things that contribute to a team’s greatness, the ability to compensate for a star player’s off night ranks high on the list. With most of the action early on taking place in the restricted circle, Thunder guard Kevin Martin broke the game out in a big way. Martin rattled off three straight 3-pointers without a miss between the first and second quarters, capping off a 17-2 Thunder run with a steal and breakaway dunk.

The Clippers will go bench against bench with any team, but Martin’s barrage put them on their heels. Jamal Crawford‘s struggles (6-for-18) were a symptom of a greater problem. The bench struggled to outplay the Thunder as a whole, and that’s a main avenue to victory for the Clippers on most nights.

But this wasn’t like most nights for more than a few reasons. Without Chris Paul in the lineup, the steady diet of open looks didn’t come quite as spoon-fed. While Blake Griffin was incredible around the rim with 31 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists, there was a lot of standing and watching him offensively. With the length of Oklahoma City’s defenders on the perimeter, that usually spells trouble.

Still, it wasn’t the Clippers’ offense that doomed them in this one, and even though the Thunder shot 52.6 percent from the field, it’s hard to degrade the defense either.  With Durant scoring just 8 points in the first half, Oklahoma City received unexpected perimeter performances from Thabo Sefolosha (3-for-5 from deep) and Russell Westbrook (3-for-6). Most defenses will gladly live with that instead of Durant, but the Clippers wouldn’t live for long.

After cutting Oklahoma City’s lead to eight about halfway through the fourth quarter, Durant finally made some real noise. After banking in a 3-pointer minutes earlier, Durant touched nothing but net on his next 3-point attempt. That one felt so nice that the very next time down the floor, Durant pulled up from the left wing and did it again. Nylon.

It was right about this time that you figured the Clippers were done. The life was understandably sucked out of the crowd, there was no Chris Paul to break in case of emergency, and 14 points is an awful lot to make up in half a quarter.

But who knows? Maybe they could have, if only Durant’s flair for the dagger wasn’t contagious. Out of the timeout, as he faked a pull-up and penetrated, Durant kicked it to a wide-open Serge Ibaka in the corner for 3. Forget that Ibaka has made exactly 9 shots form behind the arc in his career — it fell in like it was from Durant’s hands himself.

If there were a referee more of the Mills Lane variety than the Joey Crawford type, he would have called the fight right then and there. But after a Matt Barnes 3-pointer on the other end to answer Ibaka’s, Durant made extra sure to drive the point home with an emphatic spike right down the heart of the defense.

That finally did it. The Clippers never stopped playing, but Durant had an answer for everything, and that answer was usually a 3-pointer. Durant finished 5-of-6 from behind the arc, while Oklahoma City finished a ridiculous 15-of-27. And after what looked like a slow night, a quiet night, a night where the Clippers could beat the best team in the league without Chris Paul, Durant finished with 32 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists on 12-for-19 shooting.

It may have seemed for a fleeting moment that the Clippers had Kevin Durant’s number, but in the end, like he usually does, Durant got his.

  1. adnan604 - Jan 23, 2013 at 5:19 AM

    What does it say when the Thunder played as well as they possibly could and they still barely beat a Clippers team without Paul and Billups, also with 3 important Clips players having off nights (Bledsoe, Jordan and Butler)

    Does that tell anybody anything or are we just goin ahead and ignoring it ?

    It’s awkward to admit yes, because of the similar records both teams possess, but the Clippers are the better team and I just laid out the undeniable facts of why.

    • tomasekradek - Jan 23, 2013 at 7:28 AM

      i can tell you why they are NOT a better team? no KD on their roster

      • letangusespertplus - Jan 23, 2013 at 7:36 AM

        exactly. no one on the clips will stop him, especially not the flopping CP3. and 3 people having off nights means you’re not consistent. work on that first.

      • adnan604 - Jan 23, 2013 at 1:27 PM

        Too many people going against simple logic here it’s mind boggling….

        I don’t understand what’s so hard TO understand….. Kevin Durant and company played as good a game as they possibly could, you couldn’t have played a better game as an NBA team, and they still BARELY beat the Clippers who are WITHOUT THEIR BEST PLAYER…
        In detail, the Clippers stuck close with the Thunder by barely moving the ball around in the half court sets, basically by playing ISO the whole night, and you know who is considered to be the best player at getting the ball moving and going….. that’s right… Chris Paul…

        if you guys wanna disagree fine, but at least bring some valid FACTS to the discussion as opposed to yellin out opinions like a bunch of kids

      • adnan604 - Jan 23, 2013 at 1:41 PM

        and to further add to my comment about the Clippers being without Chris Paul… understand this is not just a team’s “best player” like Durant is the Thunder’s best player in the sense that he pretty much is just an elite scorer, he brings scoring to the table….
        Chris is a guy who squeezes out a 100% out of everybody that’s on the floor with him, so he makes everyone else that much better.

        So Thunder without Durant is a team that will miss about 25 – 30 points that night, meanwhile Clippers without CP3 are a team that will miss pretty much everything working like clockwork.

    • jolink653 - Jan 23, 2013 at 10:55 AM

      So you’re just gonna assume that those three had “an off night”? No credit given to the Thunder defense for causing them to have bad games? You want to know what the better team would have done? They would have won that game at home despite missing one of their best players…You didn’t lay out a single fact as to why they Clippers would be better, you just voiced your opinion as to why you think they are

      And for you to say the Thunder “played as well as they possibly could” is just ignorant…Perk and Serge allowed way too many second chance points inside, KD started off terribly, and the rebounding wasn’t great..They didn’t play their best game and still won a tough game on the road

      • adnan604 - Jan 23, 2013 at 1:32 PM

        Their defense ?

        Think about your comment real hard for a sec, do you really wanna talk up their defense on last nights game, hype it up like it’s some great scheme….. a game where the Clippers played ISO ball almost exclusively, barely moving the ball around in the half court like I said….

        ISO ball is the easiest thing to defend in the NBA, and the Thunder still barely squeaked by with a win

      • adnan604 - Jan 23, 2013 at 1:46 PM

        and on your other point, I didn’t think I needed to lay out detailed facts in my first post, I assumed people would be smart enough by now to know why Chris Paul is so important to that team and exactly what he does….

        I guess some of these kids needed reminders so I had a few posts up above detailing facts n all

      • jolink653 - Jan 23, 2013 at 3:15 PM

        And what’s your point? Whose fault is it that the Clippers played “ISO ball”? Their own, so the Thunder defend the schemes that are presented to them. Obviously the Clippers felt that was the best way to attack, and it didn’t work. They won by 12 in one of the toughest arenas to play in in the NBA, so I wouldn’t call that “squeaking by” either. And they held down one of the more explosive offenses in the league, regardless of Chris Paul not playing.

        Still waiting for some of your so-called facts as to how the Clippers are better than the Thunder.

      • lyndseymarieee - Jan 23, 2013 at 4:34 PM

        They beat the Celtics in Boston a few seasons ago without Durant. They are above and beyond what they were then. When KD misses a game, other players step up. I’m beginning to think from your comments that you don’t watch OKC play often enough to be having a valid opinion about their play.

    • eventhorizon04 - Jan 23, 2013 at 3:21 PM

      What does it say about how much you understand the NBA that you apparently think that a couple of regular season games establish which team is better?

      Probably that you’re a guy who hasn’t been watching the NBA too long…

      I’m neither a Clippers or OKC fan, but the facts are obvious.
      First, Clippers were outplayed and lost. The Clippers can’t beat elite teams without Chris Paul.

      Second, it’s just a regular season game that will be irrelevant in a few months if these two teams meet in the playoffs.

      The End.

  2. dannymac17 - Jan 23, 2013 at 5:43 AM

    good for them

    clippers without paul? decent.

    thunder without KD? worse

    • lyndseymarieee - Jan 23, 2013 at 4:12 PM

      Actually, I can think of some games in the past few seasons where Durant hasn’t played and they’ve still done well. They’re just a great team without KD, not phenomenal.

  3. fanofevilempire - Jan 23, 2013 at 7:12 AM

    western conf, playoffs will be sick this year.

    the West is loaded.

    Lakers might be better off not involved.

  4. shzastl - Jan 23, 2013 at 9:03 AM

    Why do you not put the score of the game in the article?

  5. tiennguyen645 - Jan 23, 2013 at 10:13 AM

    Loser is loser we have to accept that.Okc beat CLIPPER home & away KD doing good job . good job thunder

  6. mat9844 - Jan 23, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    The Clippers playing without CP3 is like a football team without thier starting quarterback — he’s the playmaker and while they did beat some teams without Paul, OKC was not going to be one of them. The highlight of the game, for a Clips fan, was watching BG in that incredible performance.

  7. dannymac17 - Jan 23, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    Good for the Thunder.

    Try winning a game without your floor general.

    Lets see how that works out.

  8. boli34 - Jan 23, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    But when they were blowing teams out without cp3 it was all good because we are deeper than everyone else but when you lose without him it’s we didn’t have our best player. Can’t have your cake and eat it too. Pick a story and stick to it.

  9. e39er - Jan 23, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    2 contrasting teams, yet very similar in each other, the Clippers rely on CP3 to have a planned attack with set plays, where the Thunder relies on jumpshots and ISO plays, however the Clippers execution still need to improve where the Thunders are showing they can finally execute their haft court plays, havin a player like Durant helps who is basically a one man army with his 7foot fadeaway which basically you cannot guard….Injuries happens, Clippers need to walk away from this with a lesson to attack the Thunder if they wanna win the West

  10. dwhit67 - Jan 23, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    Not sure what game you were watching, but a 12 point loss is not a close game. Clippers got their butts handed to them, and they are 0-2 against the Thunder. Thunder are clearly better.

  11. dwhit67 - Jan 23, 2013 at 4:51 PM

    Thunder!

  12. dwhit67 - Jan 23, 2013 at 4:52 PM

    Thunder won by 12. This wasn’t a close game. Clippers are 0-2 against OKC. Thunder are clearly better.

  13. drago2012 - Jan 23, 2013 at 6:54 PM

    Both of these teams are really bad teams. They play matador defense and offer no resistance. Kevin Durant was not fronted by anyone on that dunk. Clippers just stood by like bunch of bitches and looked on while he jumped over them. They are both pathetic on defense, actually everyone in the WEST is pathetic on defense. Daaaaaaaaa Buuuullllllsssss!!!

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