Results: Home-court advantage has been regained by the Thunder as they defeat the Clippers 118-112 in Game 3 of the Western Conference semi-finals.
What Happened: When you score 112 points, offense isn’t the issue. Instead the Clippers achilles hee
The Turning Point: At the 2:09 mark, Russell Westbrook put his final imprint on the game, sinking a pull-up three-pointer to give the Clippers a four-point lead. Attempting to recreate what Westbrook did, Paul took an ill-advised isolation three. Following Paul’s miss, Durant would sink a fadeaway over CP3 to put the Thunder up 113-107. Once that shot went, it felt safe enough to call the game in Oklahoma City’s favor.
The X-Factor: The threat of Westbrook-Durant has opened the floor for Serge Ibaka to operate, making him the perfect third banana in this offense (at least when things are going well). He finished the night with 20 points on 9-of-10 shooting. Having to adjust to Ibaka whose only miss was a corner three opened the floor up for 1A and 1B to operate in. The Clippers were confused at how to defend the pick-and-roll and getting into position when the ball was passed out of the set. If it wasn’t for foul trouble that limited his first half, Ibaka may have finished closeto the 30-point mark.
Number of the Game: 7:47. Those are the number of minutes J.J. Redick played in the second half. It’s unclear what Doc Rivers is doing, maybe Redick is injured or maybe he feels that Crawford is the superior player, but whatever it is, it needs to be resolved now. My guess is that bringing in Crawford adds another ball-handler to the offense, making it harder for the Thunder to focus on Paul when he engages in the pick-and-roll. But Crawford was awful today. Neither he or Redick shot well from the field, but Redick’s offense came within the flow of the offense opposed to “dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble, shoot” while Paul and Griffin remain stationary during the possession.
Will The Bench Please Stand Up: Not including Jamal Crawford, the Clippers bench (Davis, Collison, Granger, Dudley) outscored Steven Adams 8-4. Considering none of the mentioned reserves are consistently capable of making a huge impact on the defensive end, them not being able to contribute where their lone strength lies presents a red flag. If they can’t score they don’t belong on the floor, but Rivers can’t run his starters into the ground a la Thibs in Chicago, especially against a team like the Thunder. Someone needs to step up, regardless who it is and regardless of the area they choose to impact.
Say What Moment of the Game: Serge Ibaka is perfectly built to guard Blake Griffin. He’s quick, has the appropriate arm length, and can move his feet well enough to keep up with Blake. So when Griffin chooses to back him down, it’s often a stalemate. On one particular post-up, Griffin walked away looking like this:
Based on the play, there was no ill intent from Serge Ibaka. He perfectly defended Griffin’s move and was with him step-by-step. Griffin has an issue of ducking his head into the chest of the opponent when in the paint. This time i backfired on him resulting in a bloody nose. It’ll be a surprise to see Griffin take that approach with Ibaka again.
Player of the Game: For the Clippers it was Blake Griffin. From the jump ball, Griffin attacked the paint relentlessly. Instead of using the tradition post moves to try and attack Serge Ibaka and company, Griffin relied on the speed that makes him one of the more lethal players in the NBA. He finished Game 3 with 34 points on 13-22 shooting from the field and 8-9 shooting from the free-throw line. After having subpar performances in the firs two games of the series, Griffin showed why many call him the best power forward in the league. This type of play will have to be on display for the next three games if the Clippers want a chance to move on to the Western Conference finals.
What’s Next: Game 4 of the series. Not meaning to sound cliche, but this is a make-or-break game for the Clippers. Losing at Staples would mean the Clippers would have to pull off three consecutive victories to win this series, the last being a Game 7 on the road at Chesapeake Energy Arena. There’s no doubting the Clippers talent, but it’d be beneficial to not put ones self into that position.