Thunder vs. Los Angeles Clippers Game Recap – March 9, 2016

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

Tonight, no drama was required. The Thunder was just fine with that result, as it defeated the Los Angeles Clippers in a wire-to-wire victory at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

In a 120-108 victory, the Thunder got steady effort, execution and poise throughout the night to cruise to a win over a top-level opponent in front of its home crowd. Head Coach Billy Donovan’s club was sensational on the offensive end outside of 11 first half turnovers, but just five in the second half – which 52.7 percent shooting on 33 assists will easily mask. In the second half, the Thunder allowed just 46 points on 41.0 percent shooting, along with zero fast break points.

“In the second half we played a great half defensively and did a lot of really good things,” Donovan said. “We did a good job in and around the paint and then offensively we really moved the ball and executed.”

“It was more of a complete game for us,” Donovan continued. “Our guys did a really good job of staying all the way through. In the second half we ran good offense and defended very well.”

The Thunder wasn’t perfect all night, but it managed to get enough stops in crucial pivot points during the game (like the three times it was tied in the third quarter). Another major factor in this one was the Thunder’s size and physicality, as it out-rebounded the Clippers 52-29. The Thunder allowed Los Angeles just two offensive rebounds and zero second chance points, compared to the 15 points off of 10 offensive boards that Donovan’s club was able to amass throughout the night.

“We were crashing,” forward Kevin Durant said. “We know that more than likely the rebounds were going to be long, so we all did a good job of boxing out DeAndre Jordan and coming in there and grabbing those rebounds.”

“One of the game plans was that if I’m not going to get it, then [Jordan] isn’t going to get it,” an enthusiastic Steven Adams said. “It was good team rebounding as well, they helped out a lot – all the guards coming in.”

After the Thunder burst out to a 103-85 lead on three-pointers from Durant and Anthony Morrow and an Enes Kanter layup, all that was left was to protect its advantage. Throughout the fourth quarter the Clippers, who came in with the fifth-best record in the league, made mini-spurts, which is to be expected in an NBA game. Each time, the Thunder managed to either get into its offense and create an easy bucket, or find a way to string together stops to quell any sort of momentum the Clippers tried to muster.  

“That was growth, we did a good job of sticking together,” Westbrook said. “We did a good job of settling down, running our sets and taking care of the game.”

“We worried about what we can control and that’s just how we play – our pace and not trying to do too much,” Durant added. “We did a good job in the second half setting the tone defensively.”

Westbrook recorded a career-high, and Thunder-record 20 assists as a part of his 11th triple-double of the season, a magnificent 25-point, 11-rebound performance. The Thunder point guard was electric from the very start, racking up six assists on the Thunder’s first six made baskets as a part of 12 helpers in the first half.

Westbrook became the first player to register 20-plus points and 20-plus assists in a triple-double since Rod Strickland all the way back in 1988. In fact, no player since Magic Johnson in 1988 has replicated Westbrook’s stat-line from tonight, but Westbrook only looks at one thing in the box score.

More history. Russell Westbrook becomes first player since Magic Johnson in '88 with at least 25p-20a-10r.

A photo posted by Oklahoma City Thunder (@okcthunder) on

“The win,” Westbrook said. “It’s more important to me to be able to see all my teammates happy and enjoying the game and enjoying this win. That’s the more important part to me, to make sure everybody feels comfortable about their game.”

“He was brilliant,” Adams said of his point guard. “He was just reading the defense and not forcing anything. He just played the game. It was amazing.”

His fellow All-Star Durant also had an excellent night, scoring 30 points on 11-for-20 shooting go with 12 rebounds and seven assists, making it seven straight games for Durant with at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists – the longest such streak since Larry Bird. Serge Ibaka extended his streak of double-digit scoring nights to 11 with 15 points, Andre Roberson added 13, Adams had nine points and nine rebounds and Kanter pitched in 14 points and seven rebounds off the bench.

 

Watch: Thunder Highlights

 

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Third Quarter Run a Game Changer

Without barely a dribble, the Thunder turned a defensive rebound into a wide open dunk. Westbrook snared a Clippers miss, put the ball on the deck and hit Randy Foye on an outlet pass up the sideline. By the time Foye caught the ball and settled, Westbrook was already in the offensive halfcourt ready to receive the ball back, and Serge Ibaka lay in wait under the rim. Immediately after the catch, Westbrook fired the ball diagonally, turning the transition three-on-one into a wide open Ibaka dunk.

 

 

“Randy got out into transition, I kept running, I tried to find the open guy and Serge was able to be open,” Westbrook explained.

That bucket came as an exclamation point to a 10-0 Thunder run that turned a 75-75 tie with 7:39 to go in the quarter into an 85-75 lead with 4:03 left. To start the burst, Ibaka scored on a pump-fake then step-up jump shot, then Westbrook came down and pulled up for a mid-range jumper. After a defensive stop, Westbrook found Ibaka on a laser of a pass under the rim for two. The Clippers called a timeout, but Westbrook snagged a rebound and took it all the way to the rim. From there, the Thunder and Clippers closed out the quarter even, setting up the final period when the Thunder pulled away for good.

“We played with good pace,” Westbrook said. “We got some stops and played fast and when we play fast and everybody runs the lanes and we move the ball around, it’s hard to stop us.”

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Pregame Tribute

Prior to tip-off tonight, the Thunder honored Aubrey McClendon with a video tribute describing his significance not just to the Thunder organization but the entire Oklahoma City community. The Thunder part-owner passed away a week ago. Afterwards, there was a moment of silence for both McClendon and Demetrius Pinckney, the younger brother of Thunder guard Dion Waiters, who died on Tuesday night.

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By the Numbers

7 – Consecutive games that Kevin Durant scored 25 points to go with 10 rebounds and five assists, the longest streak since Larry Bird accomplished it

11 – Consecutive games in double digits scoring for Serge Ibaka, who finished with 15 points

20 – Assists for Russell Westbrook on the night, a career-high and Thunder record, as a part of a 25-point, 11-rebound triple-double, his 11th on the year

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The Last Word

“We moved the ball, we moved our bodies and we had a really good groove on the offensive end. We have to keep it up.” – forward Kevin Durant

 

 

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