Round 2, Game #2 | May 7, 2014
Chesapeake Energy Arena | Oklahoma City, OK
OKLAHOMA CITY – The emotional lift the Thunder may have received from Kevin Durant’s pregame MVP trophy presentation did not resonate until after halftime in Game 2 of the Clippers’ second round playoff series Wednesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Clippers withstood two early fouls to Chris Paul and Paul and Blake Griffin went without a field goal for the better part of a quarter and a half. And they even remained close after a power outage left the arena dimly lit for the final 27.2 seconds of the first half.
But they could not overcome Durant and Russell Westbrook nearing triple-doubles through three quarters and when turnovers and fouls started piling up for the Clippers, the Thunder took advantage.
The Clippers made a brief push late, but they never got closer than a dozen points, and lost 112-101, sending the series back to Los Angeles tied at one game apiece.
“I think we came in with the right mindset,” Paul said. “But we weren’t ourselves tonight.”
Game 2 was an all-in-all different from Game 1, almost from the outset. The Clippers turned the ball over 14 times, shot 44.6 percent and were unable to curtail either of Oklahoma City’s stars.
The newly crowned MVP finished with a game-high 32 points. He made seven of his first 12 shots and had nine assists and 12 rebounds. Westbrook had 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, registering his third triple-double in the last six games.
“It’s hard [to contain them both],” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “But that’s why their names are Westbrook and Durant, it’s hard. I still believe that’s only 63 points. You can still win a game and we’ve beaten them before when they’ve both had great games.”
Paul, who had 17 points, 11 assists and five rebounds, and DeAndre Jordan earned two fouls in the first quarter. Paul was whistled for his second foul 5:19 into the game. Paul’s absence altered the complexion of the opening period. The Thunder scored 14 of the next 17 points and closed the first quarter with a 37-28 lead, including getting 17 from Durant.
“We’ve got to be better,” Paul said. “We can’t be worried about the bad whistles.”
The Clippers worked their way back, pulling ahead by three thanks to J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes converting four of their first five 3-pointers. Redick had 18 points, including 14 by halftime, and Barnes scored 11. Griffin scored 15 points with six rebounds and Jordan had seven points and eight boards.
But the Thunder buried the Clippers midway through the third, scoring 11 consecutive points, including dunks on three straight possessions and a 3-pointer from Westbrook after Thabo Sefolosha stole an inbounds pass.
“I thought we were mentally not as locked in as they were,” Griffin said. “I thought they did a good job of doing what they talked about doing and executing their game plan. I just thought we were a little mentally tentative I guess.”
DURANT PRESENTED WITH MVP
Adam Silver was on hand to present the 2014 KIA Most Valuable Player Award to Durant. Thunder fans chanted “M-V-P” before the award was presented and again after Durant left the court. A tribute video was aired before Silver handed the trophy to Durant, who raised it above his head.
“Thank you guys I appreciate it,” Durant told the crowd. “The last few days have been overwhelming for me… I wouldn’t want to share this award with anyone else but you.”
Griffin, who finished third in MVP balloting, and the rest of his teammates were on the court during the presentation. Griffin said seeing Durant win the award serves as motivation for himself.
“It’s motivation,” Griffin said. “I think the best part of the MVP is that your team has to win. They clearly won in the regular season and he had a great season. It is motivation a little bit, but at the same time I still have a shot at the biggest goal of all.”
Paul is 10-for-14 from 3-point range in the series… The Clippers are tied 1-1 in a conference semifinals series for the fourth time in franchise history… The Clippers allowed 110 points or more for the second time in nine post season games… The Thunder outrebounded the Clippers, 52-36… Glen Davis scored 10 points with six rebounds off the bench…
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS HEAD COACH DOC RIVERS:
On Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook:
“Yeah, I thought they did exactly what Scotty Brooks said what they would do, so give them credit. He said that they were going to make us feel them and I thought they did that. I thought they were by far the more physical team. They started with the first play of the game with [Thabo] Sefolosha getting behind us and bumped us off our spot and we lose balance. Westbrook…six offensive rebounds. They had a good offensive game but we can’t win if they both have good offensive games. What we can’t do is then give them that plus everything else, and I thought that’s what happened tonight. They were the tougher team tonight for sure.”
On if he saw this coming as an emotional carry over from Durant’s MVP award:
“No. I knew they were going to come with it and they should. That’s what they should do. I have no problem with that. They didn’t do anything dirty or anything. They played hard and physical, but you’ve got to do it back. I didn’t think we did it back. I thought we weren’t very physical tonight or mentally tough tonight either.”
On how hard it is when two players are focused in like Durant and Westbrook:
“It’s hard, but you know that’s why their names are Westbrook and Durant. They’re very good players. I still believe that’s only 63 points. You can still win the game and we’ve beaten them before when they’ve both had great games. I didn’t like how they scored. It was too easy. I thought we had way too many mental defensive breakdowns. I wasted three timeouts in a row because we said we were going to switch twice and both times Durant is laying it in. The playoffs are a single possession game. Every single possession you have to have great focus and you have to be locked in. Today we were not. I thought it was because of all the clutter today. We were upset at the officials we were upset at everything, instead of turning our anger toward the opponent and focus. Tonight we just didn’t have but I’ve got to give them credit. I don’t know if we didn’t have it or they took it from us. I thought they were very good tonight. They were physical, they moved the ball, so give them a lot of credit.”
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS GUARD CHRIS PAUL:
On the difference in the Thunder’s performance tonight versus Game 1:
“They were just aggressive. I think Russ probably played harder than all of us combined, he was all over the place. We have to play better.”
On what happens when other Thunder players score a lot besides Durant and Westbrook:
“We have to keep playing our game, obviously we want to defend a little better. We know Russ and KD are going to put up a lot of shots; we can’t let the other guys get going.”
On how to counter Westbrook when he is playing so aggressive:
“It’s tough, its tough guarding him as it is. You get two bad fouls like that early in the game, and it’s hard enough to guard him as it is, then when you are in foul trouble it makes it even tougher. Game 3 I will come out ready to play and see if I can do better.”
On the loss and heading back to Los Angeles with the series tied:
“Yes, it’s tough. We came in with the right mindset, we played hard and things like that, but it wasn’t enough to tonight. We are going to need our fan support, and our crowd, going back home for Game 3. It’s going to be a big game for us, and we need to come out and have a big time game, and great energy.”
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER HEAD COACH SCOTT BROOKS:
“I thought the ball movement was really good, the passing, the execution on the offensive end…(We) Had a couple turnovers late, but that wasn’t much of a factor. I liked our defense. It was a very competitive game, and in order to win in this league in the playoffs you’ve got to play like that for 48 minutes. I thought we did a good job of competing on every possession and we came away with a win.”
On Thabo Sefolosha:
“Well, Thabo came back and gave us a good defensive presence on [J.J.] Redick in that second half. I thought he had too many open looks in the first half. But he really locked in and did a much better job in that second half, and he hit some shots. Thabo’s been a good shooter for us for a couple years now. We have confidence in him. But I thought his defense in that third quarter gave us the spark that we needed. He had his hands on the basketball, he contested shots, he got a couple of steals and then he made some shots.”
On the energy level compared to Game 1:
“Well, we were down 1-0 in the series, so we wanted to come out and play better. That was our first line of adjustments. We wanted to play a better basketball game, and we did that. We have a prideful group of guys. And we didn’t like the way we executed in the last game, and we rectified that by playing much better. Our execution was better, our energy was better, everything was better, we were connected to one another for 48 minutes.”
Ben Haber | Folow @HaberBen
Prior to Game 1 of the Clippers’ series against the Thunder, Matt Barnes said the Clippers want to “get one [win]” at Chesapeake Energy Arena, and that mission was accomplished Monday in a dominant 122-105 victory.
Now, Los Angeles looks to steal both road contests in Game 2 Wednesday.
Doc Rivers doesn’t expect his team to take its foot off the gas despite already owning home-court advantage. Rivers believes the Clippers can improve even after a Game 1 in which they led by as many as 29.
“I thought we played good defense. I didn’t think we were great defensively,” Rivers said. “We aren’t going to shoot that way every night. We didn’t get in transition at all last night for the most part. So there are things offensively we can do better.”
Chris Paul knows the team’s impressive Game 1 triumph doesn’t mean much going into Game 2.
“You don’t read too much into it because it’s Game 1 of [this] series,” Paul said. “There is still a lot of basketball to played. With us, you can’t get too high or too low.”
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
1. Supporting cast production. Paul and Blake Griffin notched 55 points, while Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook tallied 54 points, nearly cancelling each other out. The difference between the teams was primarily the supporting cast’s production.
The Clippers’ bench accumulated 38 points in Game 1, outscoring the Thunders reserves by seven points. In addition, Los Angeles had five players reach double digits, but Oklahoma City had only three players.
“Our bench is a very unique bench,” Paul said. “Most of those guys can go to any other team and start. So we have a lot of confidence in them. We can lean on them.”
Said Blake Griffin, “Jamal [Crawford] coming off the bench, Darren Collison, those guys are huge for us. And [they] can really up the tempo, and kind of change the game. We look to our bench to really make an impact.”
2. Paul’s offensive mindset. In the first round of the playoffs, Paul placed a priority on defending Warriors star point guard Stephen Curry, and he did so successfully. Conversely, Paul began the second round against the Thunder aggressively on offense with 32 points, 10 assists, on 12-for-14 shooting and 8-for-9 on 3-pointers, which was a career-high.
Paul doesn’t know if he will look to score as often in Game 2, and he plans on deciding his offensive mindset based on the flow of the game.
“The next game I might have 12 points, 10 points or maybe not even that many,” Paul said. “I am one of those people that [does] whatever it takes to win.”
3. Rebounding. One of the lone positive takeaways the Thunder had in Game 1 was their 47-31 rebounding advantage over the Clippers. Although the battles on the glass were slightly skewed, as the Clippers kept putting the ball through the hoop.
In the regular season, the Clippers were right around average at rebounding, ranking No. 14 in spite of DeAndre Jordan’s league high 13.9 rebounds per game. The Thunder placed seventh in the NBA, yet came up on the short end of the category in three of their five encounters with the Clippers this season. Both of these teams are elite on offense, therefore limiting second-chance opportunities is vital.
For the second time in franchise history, the Clippers lead a Conference Semifinal series. It last happened in 1975 when the Buffalo Braves were ahead of the Bullets 1-0… The Clippers have scored 30-plus points in six of their previous seven quarters… The Thunder turned the ball over 17 times in Game 1, and the Clippers coughed it up a mere eight times, which continues a trend from the regular season. The Thunder were 25th in turnovers per game, compared to the Clippers finishing seventh…The Clippers are 2-1 at the Thunder’s Chesapeake Energy Arena in 2013-14...
LAC: Hedo Turkoglu (back) is out.
OKC: None reported.
THE LAST WORD
Jamal Crawford: “I think when you win a game sometimes you tend to relax, and that’s not going to be this group. It’s do or die now. It’s win or go home. We feel confident about what we’re doing.”
PLAYOFF SERIES RECAP
Game 1: May 5, 2014 at Chesapeake Energy Arena: Clippers 122, Thunder 105
Game 2: May 7, 2014 at Chesapeake Energy Arena
Game 3: May 9, 2014 at Staples Center
Game 4: May 11, 2014 at Staples Center
Game 5*: May 13, 2014 at Chesapeake Energy Arena
Game 6*: May 15, 2014 at Staples Center
Game 7*: May 18, 2014 at Chesapeake Energy Arena