Yes, there are moral victories.
The Clippers and Thunder played what was perhaps the game of the year (and Western Conference Finals preview) on Wednesday night, needing overtime to decide the victor, the Thunder prevailing 117-111. The game had a playoff-like atmosphere and the Thunder had to survive a game winning shot attempt by Chris Paul as time expired. The Clippers erased a 10 point lead to force overtime with Diondre Jordan coming up huge at the free throw line, making his last three attempts and scoring on Perkins underneath to stun the Thunder and force a timeout.
Kevin Durant led all scorers with 35 points on 7 for 19 shooting (and a whopping 19 for 21 free throws), followed by Russel Westbrook and Kevin Martin with 23 and 20 apiece. Serge Ibaka chipped in 19 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out in overtime.
Blake Griffin was the high scorer for the Clippers with 20 points, but passed up several wide open jump shots and looked tentative at times. Jamal Crawford also scored 20 points on 7 for 18, with Matt Barnes again playing inspired basketball, scoring 19 points, pulling down 9 rebounds, and even grabbing 3 steals.
But the big story was Chris Paul’s off night, CP3 only converting 2 of 14 shots, missing two key layups in the 4th quarter, and turning the ball over three times (culminating in his miss as time expired that would have won it in regulation). Afterward, Paul shouldered the blame, “We shoulda won this game, and they…” he stopped short of finishing the obvious “and they know it.”
The two teams came out hyper fast, with lots of turnovers in the first frenetic few minutes. By the end of the quarter, the Thunder led by 6 after one, 10 at the half. The lead would get up to 12 in the 3rd quarter, but the Clippers refused to go away, clawing back to within 5 with just under two minutes to go in the 4th. Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford hit huge 3-pointers to draw the Clippers even before Paul set up for the game winner. His attempt over Westbrook barely missed and the game went into overtime. In the extra period, Kevin Durant showed why he is considered one of the league’s best by scoring almost all of the Thunder’s points, Westbrook hitting two big shots (a 3-pointer and running bank shot). The game then came down to intentional fouls, with the Thunder converting enough to scrape through with the win.
The Clippers now travel to Brooklyn to face the Nets on Friday.