Skip to content

Kevin Durant delivers daggers as the Thunder roll over the Clippers

Jan 23, 2013, 2:32 AM EDT

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Dante Exum diagnosed with torn ACL

    Aug 4, 2015, 9:56 PM EDT

    Dante Exum Dante Exum

    Exum suffered the injury in an exhibition game in Slovenia.

  2. Report: Concern Dante Exum tore his ACL

    Aug 4, 2015, 8:01 PM EDT

    Dante Exum Dante Exum

    That would derail a lot of the Jazz’s positive momentum

  3. Report: Magic sign Melvin Ejim to partially guaranteed contract

    Aug 4, 2015, 3:33 PM EDT

    Melvin Ejim, Rafael Hettsheimeir, Vitor Benite AP

    Will former Iowa State star make Orlando’s team?

  4. Kobe Bryant says he’s not sure if he retires at end of season

    Aug 4, 2015, 1:45 PM EDT

    Kobe Bryant Kobe Bryant

    Kobe doesn’t know how he’ll feel next summer. You can’t blame him for that.

  5. Report: Knicks reach deal with backup center Kevin Seraphin

    Aug 4, 2015, 11:57 AM EDT

    Washington Wizards v Charlotte Hornets Getty Images

    He will battle Kyle O’Quinn to backup Robin Lopez.

  6. Corey Brewer excited to reunite with Ty Lawson, spark Houston

    Aug 4, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT

    Denver Nuggets vs Houston Rockets Getty Images

    Lawson and Brewer put up impressive offensive numbers together in Denver.

  7. Raptors officially unveil new uniforms, yes there is a Drake-inspired one

    Aug 4, 2015, 10:05 AM EDT

    alternate2-details

    I’m no fashion critic, but they’re not bad.

  8. Andrea Bargnani says he would have played “for free” to prove himself with Nets

    Aug 4, 2015, 9:14 AM EDT

    Andrea Bargnani AP

    Somehow I bet he still cashes his paychecks rather than actually playing for free.

  9. Morris twins lawyers seek to send case back to grand jury

    Aug 4, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Phoenix Suns Media Day Getty Images

    The Morris twins have denied any involvement, or even knowing the victim.

  10. Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle says team will err on side of caution with Wesley Matthews return

    Aug 4, 2015, 1:05 AM EDT

    New York Knicks v Portland Trail Blazers Getty Images

    Thinking long-term is the smart approach, the only one the Mavericks should consider

  11. Kobe Bryant’s popularity in China knows no bounds

    Aug 3, 2015, 11:17 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwzjzdnimmu0mmfiyjq3nwrlytblymy1zja0mgnhnmiw AP

    Kobe Bryant is Beatles during the British Invasion level popular in China.

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Bryant (2057)
  2. L. James (1714)
  3. J. Thompson (1654)
  4. J. Smith (1529)
  5. S. Vujacic (1510)
  1. T. Thompson (1464)
  2. M. Scott (1447)
  3. P. George (1400)
  4. S. Curry (1305)
  5. D. Lee (1290)