Last night, the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Clippers thanks to an outstanding second-half performance: 128-110 the final score.
It has been a game of two halves. In the first half, the Thunder weren’t able to stop the Clippers without fouling. This didn’t help at all, first of all, because the Clippers shot particularly well from the FT line, and second, Oklahoma City wasn’t able to run up and down the floor as this team likes to do. The Thunder trailed by thirteen points after the first twenty-four minutes.
The second half? A completely different story. After the long break, the team led by Russell Westbrook and Paul George started to play a smarter defense, they kept the Clippers away from the FT line and played a faster pace. All of this translated in a 39-10 quarter in Thunder favor. The last twelve minutes were managed easily by Oklahoma City, who closed the game without any particular issue.
- That third quarter
Last night’s third quarter was probably the best quarter this team played in a long, long time. The Thunder played as everyone envisioned them to do this season, probably even better. The defense was so perfect that the Clippers were able to score only ten points in the whole period. The length, the athleticism, and the willingness to defend can make this team the best defensive team in the league. Not only the defense was sublime, but also on offense Oklahoma City was able to score at will. Thirty-nine points. Perfection.
- Westbrook & George
The two All-Star played a spectacular game on both ends of the floor. They combined for sixty-four total points (thirty-two apiece) on a 22-43 shooting night. Really good. Westbrook was able to get to the rim anytime he wanted to. It didn’t matter who the Clippers throw at him. Russell took twenty-three shots, only seven came out of the painted area with three attempts from behind the arc. While Westbrook was unguardable at the rim, George was almost unguardable from the mid-range area. If Paul George is known for his defensive skills, the same can’t be said for Westbrook. However last night he played a complete game, adding three steals and one block.
- Ferguson’s impact
Terrence Ferguson took only one shot last night, he made it. He added one steal, one assist, one block, and four fouls. It doesn’t seem much, but his defense was impressive, and Donovan rewarded Ferguson’s effort on defense by playing him twenty-six minutes. Ferguson had also the best +/- of the team, +34. If Ferguson can keep up this type of defense, then he will be a constant in Donovan’s rotations.
- The Spanish defender
Alex Abrines isn’t known for his defense, actually, it has always been his weak spot. But this season Abrines is showing that he can stay on the floor, he can defend, and that’s massive for the Thunder. Oklahoma City doesn’t have many shooters on its roster, Abrines is probably the best from behind the arc, being able to play him, it will unlock even more offensive potential for the whole team.
- Work in progress
If the second half of the game was almost perfect, then we can’t say the same for the first part. The Thunder fouled too much, as a consequence, the defense became less aggressive, and this translated in sixty-four points for the Los Angeles Clippers. Also, the result of committing too many fouls is that the flow of the game will slow down, which is not optimal when you are a team that makes the fast pace one of your strong skill. We are still in the early stages of the season, so a lot of things will work out itself with time, but keep opponents out of the free-throw line will be really important if this team wants to succeed.
The Thunder will play in Charlotte on Thursday night against the Hornets. Tip-off at 6 pm CT.
Photos by Zach Beeker and Andrew Bernstein