No Durant, Westbrook goes down, Thunder still make it interesting but fall to Clippers

4 Comments

Doc Rivers will take the win.

But he’s got a lot of fodder for the team’s next film session.

The Oklahoma City Thunder should have gotten blown out this game. Kevin Durant is out and then Russell Westbrook broke his hand in the first half and had to leave for the night. By the time the final buzzer sounded the Thunder were down to eight players.

Yet they were a close Serge Ibaka three at the buzzer away from sending the game to overtime.  The shot was just short.

With that the Clippers escaped with a 93-90 win in their home and season opener. But neither team looked anything like the contenders they aspire to be. Sure, it’s just one of 82, but these teams have some work to do.

The Thunder are now off to an 0-2 start and have a rough month ahead of them without their stars (there is no timetable for Westbrook officially, but broken hands take time).

The Clippers came out flat — OKC started the game off on an 8-0 run — and just could not make shots. They shot 39.1 percent as a team and were 7-of-30 from three — and just 2-of-10 on corner threes. Sharpshooter J.J. Redick was 1-of-10, Jamal Crawford was 5-of-15, Chris Douglas-Roberts 0-4.

But it was more than just an off night shooting — the Clippers had the best offense in the NBA last year because of their ball movement and player movement, particularly in transition. Not Thursday, the ball stuck. Players stood.

Meanwhile the Thunder just kept grinding. Perry Jones stepped up in a big way with 32 points on just 17 shots, while Serge Ibaka added 17 points an 9 rebounds. It’s not that the Thunder were sharp — they shot 43.1 percent as a team — but they would not give up and they kept making plays.

A couple of times in the second half the Clippers would pull away — for example the Clippers lead got up to 10 with 5:30 left in the game, but the Thunder responded. Sebastian Telfair made it a one-point game with 1:44 when he scored to cap a 14-5 run.

What did the Thunder in was turnovers — 27 of them. Without Westbrook they shot themselves in the foot.

But the Clippers settled for jumpers and didn’t take advantage. Then in the final minute Chris Paul bricked a couple free throws. It was just that kind of night, but the Thunder lacked the guys to create the offense to make the Clippers pay.

Blake Griffin finished with 23 points, Chris Paul had 22.

It was a sloppy game. Steve Ballmer got an exciting one for his first as the LA owner, but mostly the Clippers will just take the win and try to move on.

The Thunder are going to have a rough month ahead of them.