GAMEDAY REPORT: CLIPPERS VS. THUNDER - 11/13/13
Game #9 | November 13, 2013
Staples Center | Los Angeles, CA
LOS ANGELES – About a week ago Clippers head coach Doc Rivers used “spurtability” to describe the Clippers’ ability to surge ahead in games.
On Wednesday night at Staples Center they may have given new meaning to the made up word. The Clippers outscored the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder by 20 points over an extended stretch in the second half and rode the spurt to a 111-103 win.
“We were two totally different teams in the first half and the second half,” point guard Chris Paul said. “Coach challenged us at halftime and told us we needed to bring it a little bit more.”
And bring it they did. Led by Paul, who had 14 points, 16 assists, seven rebounds and three steals, and Griffin, who added a team-high 22 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and three steals, the Clippers (6-3) came from behind to win their fourth in a row at home to start the season, all against supposed Western Conference contenders.
“If we are going to go where we want to, we know that’s a team that’s going to be there,” said Jamal Crawford. “That’s a long way away obviously, and we knew that the swept us last year for sure. Three games that could have gone either way pretty much, so it feels good to get this win.”
As it has in their previous two victories (against Houston on Saturday and Minnesota Monday), the Clippers’ defense changed the tenor of the game.
“It was pretty intense,” Paul said. “Our defense was tremendous in the second half. We started getting over, helping each other and limited their fast-break points.”
They forced 22 turnovers (15 steals), held the Thunder to 41 points in the second half on 11-for-31 shooting (35.5 percent) and limited them to just six points in transition in the final two quarters.
“At halftime we talked about it and they scored 41 points in the second half,” Rivers said. “They had zero transition points in the third quarter. I mean, that’s who we can be for 48 minutes. We’re just not there yet. The good part about that was that we were down and you’ve got to show something to do that and thought we did that tonight.”
As the defense picked up so did the Clippers’ offensive aggression. While Paul notched 16 assists, one shy of his season high, Griffin was just as forceful as a playmaker. He had five first-half assists and became a go-to scorer after halftime. He ran the floor for a runner in the third quarter to tie the score, four seconds after Russell Westbrook missed a layup, and gave the Clippers’ their first lead in more than 20 minutes with fast-break layup, twisting Thabo Sefolosha around and drawing a foul on the following possession.
“He’s just involved,” Rivers said of Griffin. “He’s defending. He’s rebounding. He’s posting. He’s shooting. He’s our facilitator with his passing. It’s important for someone else to be a facilitator besides just Chris. And having Blake and Chris being able to do that it really makes us pretty good.”
The Clippers got double-digit scoring from all five starters as well as 20 points off the bench from Jamal Crawford. The balance helped combat 33 points from Kevin Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer.
“You have to [get balance],” forward Jared Dudley said. “The way [the Thunder] play defense they make you hit shots from the outside.”
The game was emotionally charged, dramatic and included two lengthy runs, one by each team. The Clippers (6-3), who lost to the Thunder (5-2) in all three meetings last season, refused to back down from an Oklahoma City team that came in on a four-game winning streak since the return of superstar point guard Russell Westbrook from knee surgery.
In the waning moments of the first half Griffin and Ibaka had their arms interlocked on the low block and after Ibaka threw Griffin aside, Matt Barnes retaliated by shoving in the Ibaka’s chest. The play resulted in a brief skirmish before officials restored order. Griffin was assessed a technical foul and Ibaka and Barnes were ejected.
The Ibaka ejection proved costly for the Thunder, who were already without center Kendrick Perkins (personal reasons). Ibaka was 6-of-6 from the floor with 13 points before being sent to the locker room early.
“When they lost [Ibaka] early it had an effect on the game,” Jordan said. “We definitely tried to take advantage of that in the second half.”
The Clippers roared to a 30-16 third quarter and 31-11 run split between the third and fourth. Even after Oklahoma City cut the lead with less than five minutes to go the Clippers held them off and finally put the Thunder away with a Jamal Crawford 3-pointer.
Crawford went 3-for-7 from 3-point range, passing Glen Rice for No. 14 all-time… Paul became the first player since Magic Johnson in 1990-91 to start the season with a double-double in his first nine games. Johnson had 11-straight double-doubles to start that season… The Clippers outrebounded the Thunder, 50-35… The teams combined for 27 steals and 44 turnovers… Durant went 15-of-17 from the foul line… Westbrook had 19 points and 10 assists… The Clippers have defeated Golden State, Houston (twice), Minnesota and Oklahoma City in the first two weeks of the season…
Clippers forward Blake Griffin on what the win means:
“It’s a good win. They’re a great team. Right now, at this point in the season, we’re very concerned about ourselves. We’ve got to get to a place where we’re happy. There [are] going to games where we execute and we do the things we want to do, and we might not win, and we’ll be ok with that. There are games that we’ll win and we’ll feel like we could have done a much better job. We could have done a better job tonight of just being a little bit more solid all four quarters. We’ll obviously take the win, but there are some things that we’ve got to work on.”
Clippers forward Jared Dudley on the importance of beating the Thunder:
“It’s a team we didn’t beat last year and a team we’ll hopefully be seeing down the road come playoff time.”
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers on the third quarter run by his team:
”What I loved about the third quarter was that every single guy [I played] came in and did something. Reggie Bullock came in and played terrific. He’ll make those shots [he missed] by the way. The game was probably going very fast for him, but defensively he played great. [Darren Collison] played great.”
Clippers guard Chris Paul on toughness:
“I think at certain times toughness can be mistaken for guys wanting to fight. At the end of the day, nobody in the NBA’s holding the world championship belt. Toughness is on the court. It’s how you rebound, how you defend and stuff like that. We’re getting there. We’re going to keep building. You’ve got to find ways to win games and that’s what we did tonight.”
Thunder forward Kevin Durant on the final minutes of the game:
“We just had to play quick. We were getting them off balance, finding guys, getting to the rim and getting fouled. They hit some tough shots down the stretch and we have to give them credit, but we have to move forward.”
CROWN ROYAL SHOT OF THE GAME
By: Eric Patten | Follow @EricPatten
LOS ANGELES – Coming into the season, it was clear the Clippers’ opening month would be challenging.
Not only were they adding a new coach and several key new pieces, but the first four weeks of the schedule were relentless in terms of the quality of opponents they played. They have already played the Miami Heat, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets twice and the upstart Minnesota Timberwolves.
On Wednesday night the Oklahoma City Thunder (5-1) can be added to their veritable murderer’s row. The five opponents, including the Thunder, have combined for a record of 23-13. The Clippers (5-3) beat all of them except Miami.
“I think this year is one of the most competitive years I’ve seen for a while,” veteran center Ryan Hollins said. “So, every single night you’re playing a big matchup. I mean, [Minnesota] didn’t even make the playoffs last year, and they’re just as good as anybody in the league right now.”
The Oklahoma City matchup is especially crucial. Even though it’s nine games into the Clippers know from year’s past that ground is tough to make up in the West. A November game versus a contender can be just as important as one in April.
“It will be a big game for us,” Chris Paul said. “They are going to come in here ready to go. They are one of the best teams in the conference year in and year out.”
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers is excited to see where his team stacks up against an elite team. “It’s always another game at the end of the day,” he said. “That’s an old cliché, but they are good team obviously. It’s like when you play Miami, Oklahoma City or San Antonio. They’re special fun games.”
J.J. Redick vs. Thabo Sefolosha
In a game where both teams have a clear-cut so-called big 3 that levels things out, it will likely be a role player who makes the difference. Redick and Sefolosha will be matched up at shooting guard and while the veteran from Switzerland is having a rough start to the season shooting the ball, he will be tasked with chasing Redick around for most of the night. Sefolosha is a former All-Defensive Team member (2010). The two have faced off 12 times in their career with Redick shooting 38.5 percent. He did, however, score in double digits in four of his last five matchups with the Thunder.
So far this season, Redick has helped the Clippers notch the third highest point-per-game total in the first quarter in the league. He’s topped eight points in the opening quarter five times and has often been looked at as a primary option in the opening 12 minutes to help loosen up the defense. Sefolosha, who has long arms and stands 3-inches taller than Redick is the kind of defender who could theoretically make things difficult. Still, Sefolosha has been a liability offensively for the Thunder in their last five games. He’s made just one of his last 14 3-pointers and has had his opportunities further limited by Russell Westbrook’s return from knee surgery.
THINGS TO WATCH
1. Stars shine. A year ago, when the Thunder swept the season series with the Clippers, 3-0, superstar Kevin Durant was unconscious. He scored 34.0 points per game and shot 50 percent from 3-point range. The three-time scoring champion has seemingly upped the ante this year with a league-best 30.2 points in six games.
“He’s obviously one of the best scorers in the league,” Griffin said. “He looks good. I think early on he had to take a little bit more of a scoring role with Westbrook out. Now, that he’s back it kind of balances them out.”
Westbrook, who had traditionally struggled in his hometown, scored 29 points in the third game between the teams last year and nailed a game-clinching baseline jumper in the final 30 seconds. Still, his 16.7 points per game in 18 career games versus the Clippers is the second lowest against any opponent (Detroit).
“He’s one of my favorite players in the league,” Jamal Crawford said of Westbrook. “Just the way he competes every single night. Every time he’s on the court he’s competitive and playing at a high level. I think him and Derrick Rose are probably the two most athletic point guards we’ve seen in the league.”
Paul has traditionally played well against Westbrook, but shot just 28.6 percent in two games last year. Paul sat out the middle game between the Clippers and Thunder with a bruised kneecap. As for Blake Griffin, he, too, has had success against Oklahoma City, both on the stat sheet (22 points and 10 rebounds in 11 career games versus the Thunder) and in the postgame highlights. Of course, he threw down his iconic dunk over Kendrick Perkins, but he’s also converted an acrobatic runner that ranked among his most improbable plays yet and a dunk over Serge Ibaka two years ago in Oklahoma City. Wednesday will be the first game between Griffin and Ibaka since the Thunder forward was whistled for a flagrant foul for striking Griffin in the groin last March.
2. Bench battle. Questions remain about both benches. The return of Westbrook strengthened Oklahoma City’s reserve unit because it shifted Reggie Jackson back to a utility role as the first guard off the bench. Moreover, the return of Matt Barnes (right thigh bruise) helped make the Clippers bench look more like last season. They outscored the Timberwolves, 40-17, on Monday and Rivers used a five-man unit on the floor for an extended period for the first time in nearly two weeks.
“For them to be good is a huge lift for us,” Griffin said when asked about the bench.
Because Durant and Westbrook take and make such a high volume of shots (43.1 percent of team’s total field goal attempts in last four games), the Clippers must find a way to balance out the scoring load. That will likely come from the Crawford-led bench.
The Clippers are seeking their eighth straight win at home overall and fourth in a row at Staples Center this season… The Thunder at 5-1 have matched their best start in the Oklahoma City era… They are 4-0 since Westbrook came back on Nov. 3 against the Suns… Paul has had at least 10 points and 10 assists in each of the Clippers’ first eight games, a franchise record and most to start a season since John Stockton in 1991-92… Thunder forward Ryan Gomes played for the Clippers two seasons ago and was waived in the summer of 2012… The Clippers and Thunder own two of the West’s five best winning percentages since 2011-12… They are also among the best teams in the league when holding an opponent to 42-percent shooting or worse. The Clippers are 30-0 when doing so, while Oklahoma City is 38-1…
THEY SAID IT
Doc Rivers: “I am happy that Westbrook’s back in time for us to at least prepare. It will be his fifth game by the time we play them, so it will give us a sense of how to guard him. That will be a tough one.”
COMING AND GOING
LAST TIME OUT