The Big Picture
The Thunder led for 46 minutes over the Clippers before a fourth quarter surge by LA put the game just out of reach. A stout defensive effort by OKC kept Los Angeles under 40 percent shooting from both the field and the 3-point line and scoring fewer than 100 points throughout the night. OKC hung tough in the second half during a game of runs, maintaining its lead until the final two minutes of the contest when the Clippers finally pulled ahead to take its first lead of the game and walked away with the win 99-94.
Moments from the 48
Strong Defensive Showing Playing without its defensive ace in Lu Dort (shoulder contusion), the Thunder’s defense looked to dig in its heels against the Clippers and the offensive threat of Paul George. In the opening frame, the Thunder put that defensive discipline on display as it held LA to just 14 points and just one made 3-pointer on 12 attempts. At halftime, the Clippers had scored just 40 points and George was responsible for only five of them. By the end of the night, the Clippers posted just 99 points marking the first time since this season that the Thunder held its opponent to under 100 points.
“I thought our discipline in the first half and just understanding the game plan and personnel and understanding who's on the team and what they want to do was really, really good,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “For most of the game I thought we sustained that. Obviously they get loose there at the end, but for 45 minutes, we played well enough to win obviously.”
“I think overall defensively we stuck to our schemes, we rotated well, we made good reads,” said Thunder guard Josh Giddey. “They made a lot of tough shots and gotta give credit to them on that. But I think overall, we're happy with how we're tracking on the defensive end of the of the game, and I think we're making strides in that area.”
Responding to Runs The Clippers reduced the Thunder’s double-digit lead down to just one bucket on multiple occasions in the third and fourth frames. Showing its poise and composure, the Thunder responded to each run with a burst of its own – getting stops on the defensive end and generating buckets on the other end. Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander played a major role in the Thunder’s bounce back effort in the third quarter as he dropped 15 points in the third alone. By the end of the night, Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder with 28 points.
“We're relentless, we compete and we try to do it together,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “That’s what we hang our hat on every night. No matter what's going on – shots falling, shots not falling, they’re shots are falling, they’re shots are not falling – we try to bring those two things every night.”
“We showed great poise throughout the course of the game,” said Daigneault. “It felt like during the game when they were cutting into the lead, we had some answers and made some plays and then didn't have enough of them they're down the stretch but for the most part I thought our guys showed great resolve on the road and remained a very like confident and tough-minded team.”
Lessons Down the Stretch With one minute left on the game clock, Paul George cashed in a mid-range jump shot that gave the Clippers a 93-92 lead – its first lead of the game since a brief 5-4 advantage in the first quarter. At that point, the game took on a different timbre than the previous 47 minutes. The game flow up to that point gave way to a possession-by-possession battle between the two teams to either gain or maintain a lead.
It was yet another valuable experience for the young Thunder roster in how to handle late, close game situations when execution and physicality are amplified with each second on the floor. Although OKC demonstrated that disciplined execution on both ends of throughout the game to maintain its lead, the Clippers found their stride at a critical time in those final moments going on a 15-1 run over the last two minutes.
“I thought our floor game tonight, the first 44 minutes, we outplayed them and put ourselves in position to win,” said Daigneault. “Then in that possession part of the game where the game got a little bit amped up and a little more physical, they executed on both ends better than we did and you got to give them credit for that.”
“So those situations are something we're gonna have to work on, and we're gonna learn how to deal with those situations as we play more games,” said Giddey.
The Last Word
Josh Giddey on the team’s mindset…“This is a good learning point for us. Whether we win or lose, it's not the end of the world right now. I think, making sure we learn from these lessons and not just seeing it as a loss but as a growth opportunity and I think the guys on our team are really good and have that mindset that we lost, we will review the film tomorrow, then when we come back the next night against the Lakers it's back to 0 and 0. That's the mindset that we have moving forward.”
The Thunder will have a two-day break from games before returning to the Staples Center on Thursday. This time, OKC will tip off against the LA Lakers for the third and final game of its three-game west coast road trip.