Chu on the Clippers: Showdown a letdown against top NBA rival Thunder

Jan 22, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers small forward Caron Butler (5) drives against Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) during the game at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight’s game between Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder could’ve been a sneak preview of the Western Conference Finals.  On Monday, the Clippers looked forward to extending their 4 game winning streak against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena, ultimately coming up short in a 106-99 loss. The Thunder had a winning streak of their own broken against the Denver Nuggest Sunday night, setting the stage for a winner-takes-best-NBA record game between us and them.  The last time the Clippers and the Thunder faced off was on November 21, 2012 in Oklahoma City in a thrilling game went into overtime, Chris Paul barely missing a shot to win in regulation. The game went into overtime and, unfortunately, the Clippers ultimately lost 117-111. In that contest, Kevin Durant shot a mind-boggling 25 free throws, proving he merely needs to pass wind to draw a ref’s whistle.

Well, with Chris Paul scratched just before game time, the Clippers would certainly have their work cut out for them, and ultimately they couldn’t hang with the twin motors of Durant and Westbrook, who scored over 50 points between them to lead the Thunder to victory 109-97.

The irony of CP3 not playing on his own bobble-head night was not lost on Clipper Nation.

Eric Bledsoe would get his fourth NBA start, having his personal 3-0 winning streak snapped as he couldn’t get his offense going, ending up just 5-15 for the game with 11 points. After jumping out to an early 14-4 lead, the first quarter ended up tied at 22, ending the half with us down 4. Kevin Durant had only 4 points at that juncture, and it was only a matter of time before the NBA’s three-time scoring leader got things going. And, just like that, Durant led a scoring barrage with 11 points in the 3rd quarter, extending the lead to as much as 17, before the Clippers cut it to 8 with 2 minutes left in the game. The Thunder shot a ridiculous 17-25 from 3-point range for the game and every bounce seemed to go their way (Durant actually banked one in from 30 feet away).

Blake Griffin had 16 points going into third quarter and continued his monster game (31 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists) in gamely trying to carry the team on his shoulders, but the rest of the Clipper players had a tough night; they struggled to score, turned the ball over way too many times, and could not defend the Thunder from shooting 3’s.  I was trying to stay positive that the Clippers could weather the Thunder storm and come back at the end, but without Chris Paul to guide them, it was a longshot.  Jamal Crawford is definitely not suited to run the point guard, even in a backup role, so Vinnie Del Negro had Grant Hill doing ball handling duties at one point to try to free Crawford to get his shooting groove going. Kevin Durant and his team, though, were just unstoppable. They shot 11 for 17 three pointers (65%) in the second half and 15-17 in the third quarter overall. Those numbers are hard to believe.

The OKC Thunder are really as good as advertised and without our top player it would’ve taken a near-perfect game to win; however, I am proud of our squad for playing hard without him and they did not give up until the final horn sounded..

The Clippers (32-11) are now 1.5 games behind the Thunder (33-9) for the best record in the NBA and now drop to 3rd place in the Western Conference, a half game behind San Antonio. Up next is a game in Phoenix against the Suns at 7:30pm on Thursday and I will be watching the game at the Clippers fan viewing party at ESPN Zone at LA Live.  Come by and say hello to myself and FullyClips Editor Ian Denchasy as we snap this two game losing streak!

Topics: Blake Griffin, Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe, Grant Hill, Jamal Crawford, LA Clippers, Lamar Odom, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Clippers, Matt Barnes, Vinny Del Negro

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  • http://twitter.com/jenjenk jenjenk

    It was a discouraging game. Without Chauncey as a back up, CP3 HAS to stay healthy if we want to be real contenders for the championships!!
    The thunder have so many amazing outside shooters – if they had been playing any other team than the clippers, I would’ve loved watching the thunder!!!

    • Ian Denchasy

      I think the Thunder are vulnerable due to their heavy reliance on outside shooting, with Westbrook being their Achilles heel we can exploit in a playoff series. I say give Durant his points (much as the Thunder conceded Blake his and most teams allow Kobe, for example) and shut down Westbrook penetration and Kevin Martin from deep. I can live with Westbrook and Sef shooting from downtown all day long – they go cold more often than not – and try to get long rebounds on those misses for fast break baskets. With Paul, I say the two teams are even and it may come down to home court and health. The Thunder have been remarkably lucky in this regard for three years now and I wonder how much longer they’ll go before some adversity hits.

  • Ian Denchasy

    I have to say that the Clippers, for not having their best player (and I count the Warriors game as CP3 was obviously hobbling), competed admirably. What is very important is that the team beat who they are SUPPOSED to beat to offset losses to potential playoff contenders if we continue to be without Paul for an extended stretch. Estimates are that he may miss up to 10 games (most of which are on the road), so we need to take care of business against the Suns and Bobcats of the league in case we come up short in places like San Antonio and New York, for example.