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Russell Westbrook, Thunder defense proves too much for Clippers

Apr 10, 2014, 2:03 AM EDT

Thabo Sefolosha, Russell Westbrook Thabo Sefolosha, Russell Westbrook

If this is going to be a second round series out West — and it very well may be — we are in for a treat.

And the Clippers may be in some trouble.

Oklahoma City showed off the two things it has in abundance — athleticism and scorers — and that was too much for Los Angeles. The Thunder went almost wire to wire in knocking off the Clippers in Los Angeles 107-101, although Los Angeles made it interesting late. Russell Westbrook had 30 points and 11 assists while Kevin Durant chipped in 27 on the night.

The win basically locks the Thunder into the two seed in the West and the Clippers as the three seed. In the incredibly deep West you can never rule out an early upset, but these two teams are on track to meet in the second round.

If those games are anything like this, I’m good with that. This was a great show.

Credit the Clippers for making life difficult for Kevin Durant, making him really work for his shots all night (it took him 26 shots to get his 27 points). Problem for the Clips was the Thunder also have Westbrook — he was able to get into the lane seemingly at will and had 14 of Thunder’s first 25 points on 7-of-8 shooting, with 4-of-5 of those at the rim. Westbook’s hot shooting cooled but he still put up 30 and was making plays all night.

The bigger issue for Los Angeles was the OKC defense — the Thunder are so long and so athletic, they can cover ground and contest everything. It really bothered the Clippers. Los Angeles shot 41.2 percent for the game and more importantly shot just 50 percent (21-of-42) inside eight feet. It seemed every shot the Clippers took there was a hand in their face. The Clippers also had 17 turnovers.Early in the second half the Thunder upped their aggressiveness handling pick and role, trying to force mistakes, and result was they race out to 13 point lead early after forcing four quick turnovers.

The best example of this was Thabo Sefalosha on Chris Paul (he was on that assignment for more than half the game). CP3 would come off picks and not only see no room but see long arms disrupting his passing lanes. Paul still finished with 25 points and 8 assists — he is Chris Paul after all — but like Durant he really had to work for it.

The Clippers really miss Jamal Crawford, who should be back for the playoffs. Just returned J.J. Redick looked rusty as well, something that should change with some game action.

The Thunder seemed to be in control and cruising in for an easy win until a 14-0 run in the fourth quarter made this a ballgame. The Clippers seemed to find some things that worked — for example a small ball lineup with Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and shooters around them that spaced the floor after the pick-and-roll. You can bet Doc Rivers filed that one away for a potential use if there is a playoff meeting.

The Clippers got the lead all the way down to 1 twice in the fourth quarter, and both times turned the ball over. It was that kind of night for them.

This was not the best of the Clippers — although Blake Griffin had 30 and Chris Paul added 25. Still the length and athleticism of the Thunder disrupted the Clippers offense all night long. Los Angeles can do better.

It is going to need to if they want to get past OKC in the postseason.

  1. dannymac17 - Apr 10, 2014 at 3:29 AM

    this game didnt really mean that much to either team and it seemed like they played different game plans and rotations they wouldnt normally play to gauge each other. still entertaining as hell. should be a very good west playoff. cant say much for the east tho.

  2. @thekid9ball - Apr 10, 2014 at 4:59 AM

    Reblogged this on The Fantasy Forensic and commented:
    Who would of thought voted at one time “The Worst franchise in Sports” that Kevin Durant and Mr. Westbrook would be happy that their defense could hold the L.A. Clippers….love it

  3. orvcharl1 - Apr 10, 2014 at 6:46 AM

    Yea right…if Kevin Durant keeps falling asleep on defense then the Thunder won’t get past anyone. Thank God for Russell and his willingness to do all the dirty work. If KD’s shot isn’t falling, he’s been useless. He falls for every pump fake, he loses sight of his man on rotations; that stuff spells an early playoff exit for the Thunder. Sefolosha being back to pick up the perimeter defense slack will help, but God forbid Durant has to guard somebody in the post…

  4. spthegr8 - Apr 10, 2014 at 8:34 AM

    The Clipps are good… Just not good enough for the Elite teams like Okc & The Spurs. The clippers will win their 1st round match up ( Probably ) GS isn’t gonna lay down but, that’s as far as they go. I’m not hating on them, they have a nice team. I’m Just Sayin!!

    • gameisours - Apr 10, 2014 at 10:04 AM

      No need to apologize for your own opinion, everyone has their own one.

  5. bhunter1995 - Apr 10, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    I don’t think the Clippers are fundamentally sound to win in the post season. Blake gets bodied in the playoffs every year and his post game is still limited due to terrible footwork, DJ has no game on offense except highlights, and they rely on guys like Barnes and Redick to play big minutes. Crawford is an irrattional confidence guy that is a wild card and while they do have CP3 but they have a stiff and predictable offense. Its hard to explain but its true, they are not built for the playoffs they got killed by the Grizz last year i douht they will fair any better against OKC, or San Antonio.

  6. Wammy Giveaway - Apr 10, 2014 at 12:34 PM

    Some of the credit should be given to the rookie Reggie Bullock for keeping Kevin Durant at bay. Against KD, Bullock contested 3 shots and prevented 7 points. None of the other Clipper players have been able to slow KD down effectively. Perhaps there is hope for the Tal Heels prospect after all.

    • antistratfordian - Apr 10, 2014 at 1:22 PM

      Not sure Bullock was the difference. Durant can shoot 30% regardless of who is defending him, because he relies so much on jump shots. This was his 13th 30% shooting game of the season.

  7. reastnt - Apr 10, 2014 at 1:18 PM

    I was at the game and Kurt’s summary is pretty much on target. Hard to believe the Clippers got to withing 1 point near the end, as bad as they played overall. With JCrawford back (if he’s really going to be healthy) and Redick working the rust off, I do think they can challenge OKC and SA. But they have to be at their very best.

    Danny Granger was also in street clothes. If he’s healthy in the playoffs, his 10 minutes a game will be helpful.

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