Thunder Sweeps LA Back to Back with a 4th Quarter Barrage – OKC 127, LAC 117

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | mailbag@okcthunder.com

LOS ANGELES – After a blistering, up-tempo shootout of a first half, one second half play from a Thunder reserve epitomized the type of adjustment that can be made in-game, and how it drastically impact the outcome.

Isolated out on the perimeter against LA Clippers guard Lou Williams, who came into the game averaging 30 points over his last six contests, Thunder forward Josh Huestis locked into his scouting report. Staying disciplined against the long-time shot-fake extraordinaire, Huestis didn’t bit as Williams pumped the ball, forcing the Clippers guard to throw an off balance pass. Thunder forward Patrick Patterson was ready in the passing lane, made the steal and was off to the races, accentuating a 12-0 Thunder run to start the fourth quarter.

If that wasn’t the decisive stretch in this one, it certainly was a vital burst as the Thunder took control in a 127-117 victory over the Clippers on the second night of an LA-LA back-to-back. After getting knocked back in the second quarter, the unit of Huestis, Patterson, Raymond Felton, Jerami Grant and Terrance Ferguson changed the game in the final frame.

“(The second unit) got it going. They ran offense, they played incredible defense,” forward Carmelo Anthony reviewed. “They executed what they were trying to do out there and got us into 12-0 run. That sparked something for us and then we came back in and finished the game off.”

The Thunder’s defense buckled down in the second half after allowing nearly 53 percent shooting over the first 24 minutes. Part of it was being more disciplined on Williams’ pump fakes to prevent easy drives, another was that the Thunder’s guards were sharper getting back in front of the ball, which allowed Thunder bigs like Steven Adams to retreat back to DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. That contributed to a major turnaround in the rebounding column, and a shutdown of the Clippers’ second chance opportunities.

“It really came down to our communication on the play before that,” Adams said. “Everyone did a pretty good job of executing our defense, which kind of let me stay on him, so it was big-to-big box outs. We did that a lot better.”

In the fourth quarter, the Thunder out-rebounded the Clippers by 7, held LA to just 7-for-22 (31.8 percent) shooting and made 14-of-23 shots on the other end, ultimately outscoring the Clippers 33-20 in the period.

“We brought a little physicality. We just played really good defense down the stretch,” George said. “They still made some baskets but we made them work for a lot of it and it resulted in a win.”

The defense certainly was the biggest factor in that fourth quarter, but the Thunder kept the ball moving and got high percentage shots for its stars and role players alike all night long. 24 hours after setting a season-high with 133 points, the Thunder nearly matched that total again by making 53.7 percent of its shots on the night, including 15 three-pointers.

“It really comes down to the pace that we play at,” Adams said. “When we play with more pace and execution and timing of things, that’s what’s been happening lately.”

Paul George knocked down five of them, with many coming off of curling screens. But he kept the defense honest by scoring on backdoor cuts under the rim, as Russell Westbrook found him repeatedly for high percentage looks. George led all scorers with 31 points on 12-for-16 shooting while also chipping in six rebounds, three assists and some pesky defense as the lead man on that end while Andre Roberson remains out.

“I was just playing within the offense, making myself available,” George said. “Russ is as good as anybody in the league at finding people. I just had to get open.”

After the game, Westbrook doused the head of George and Anthony with water, playfully cooling off his teammates who shot a blistering 75 percent from the field combined. Anthony knocked down 9-of-12 shots on his way to 22 points, but it was Westbrook who again stirred the cup all game, dishing out 11 assists while also racking up 29 points and 12 rebounds for his 13th triple-double of the season.

Highlights: Thunder vs. Clippers - 1/4


By the Numbers

3 – Blocks for Jerami Grant in the game, in addition to 8 points on 4-for-5 shooting and five rebounds

+7 – Rebounding margin for the Thunder in the fourth quarter, where it allowed the Clippers just 6 points in the paint and 2 second chance points

15-for-44 – Three-point shooting numbers for the Thunder on the night, including a 13-for-26 (50 percent) game from the starters


The Last Word

“We’re finding our groove, we’re figuring it out. We’re learning how to play with one antoher. The best thing is we’re doing that on the road. I almost think that’s bringing us closer. We’re trusting one another. The chemistry is getting even better and it just comes down to having fun out there.” – forward Paul George

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