Jan 22, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin (32) shoots against Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka (9) during the game at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Thunder thump Clippers as Chris Paul sits

Welcome to Adversity 101, Clipper Nation.

The Thunder came into Staples Center looking to grab sole possession of the NBA’s best record, got a gift in the form of Chris Paul’s ailing knee, and cruised to victory on a 3rd quarter barrage of 3-pointers and 75% shooting. And yet, the Clippers still kept the game within reach, cutting the deficit to 7 late in the fourth quarter before Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook hit back to back 3’s, one on a bank and one on a high bounce, to put the contest out of reach. Durant finished the game with 32 points on 12-19 shooting, with Westbrook adding 26 on 9-19. Serge Ibaka chipped in 17 points and 9 rebounds, while Kevin Martin finished with 13.

Eric Bledsoe had a poor shooting night, hitting only 5 of his 16 shots, and tallying 4 assists. The Thunder, sensing Bledsoe’s vulnerability, cut off his lanes and gave him wide open outside shots, which he either missed or passed off to other players for poor looks, demonstrating he still has a ways to go before elevating himself to starter in this league.

Another casualty of Paul’s absence was Jamal Crawford, who was forced into backup point guard duties, which hampered his offensive flow and stunted ball movement. He could only muster 14 points on 18 shots, getting double teamed constantly every time he so much as sniffed the ball.

On the plus side, Grant Hill showed some serious improvement, hitting 3 soft jumpers that showed he’ll be more and more of a factor as he regains his stamina.

But it was Blake Griffin who turned in a monster game, willing the team forward with 31 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists (to go along with 2 steals and a blocked shot) as he refused to allow his team to go quietly. Constantly hounded by Ibaka, Blake continued to pound his way inside for tough points.

I know, I know, there are no moral victories (that only happens with LA’s other team these days); however, can one seriously say the Thunder would’ve put up as good a game if Durant or Westbrook was out? Given the fight the Clippers showed, there may yet be a titanic playoff series looming at season’s end. With everyone healthy, we fans will be in for quite a treat…

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Tags: 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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