The Thunder earned a much needed 120-111 win over the Clippers tonight after losing the previous four games in a row. This game marks the first of three straight home games after coming off of a long road trip. Even after not landing in OKC until 4am, this Thunder team brought the energy tonight! This was without a doubt the best job the Thunder has done at closing out a game this season. Paul George led the way with 42 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists.
Oklahoma City started out the game absolutely dominating the Clippers. Russell Westbrook channeled his inner MVP and led the way with 10 points in the first quarter. Once it was time to give the starters a break, the tides began to turn in favor of the Clippers. The Thunder struggled to put points on the board at the end of the quarter, and ultimately gave the Clippers a one point lead at the end of the quarter.
The Thunder got off to a slow start in the second quarter. The second unit still couldn’t get shots to fall, which gave the Clippers a lead by a couple of baskets. The starters checked back in with about eight minutes to go in the half, and the Thunder took control of this game. Paul George seemingly couldn’t miss and led the way with 21 points. After a valiant effort by PG-13, the Thunder held a 63-55 lead at halftime.
Led once again by Paul George, the Thunder started off the third quarter on fire. The team was dominating on both ends of the floor. Steals led to points in transition, and solid sets on offense led to open look for OKC’s shooters. After lighting up the scoreboard at the start, the Thunder quickly fell into another one of their mid quarter slumps. Their 20 point lead quickly depleted back to the 8 point lead that they led by at halftime.
Oklahoma City continued to set the pace on both sides of the ball to start the fourth quarter. The Thunder did a great job at dictating the pace of this quarter and the entire game. The Clippers went on a bit of a run to even the score, but then the Thunder closed to the game on a 15-6 run. Paul George kept his hot hand which ultimately led to the Thunder coming out on top with a victory.
3 Quick Thoughts
- Dakari Johnson Needs More Minutes.
Dakari Johnson made his first career start in the NBA tonight. The second round pick received the nod for the starting job after Steven Adams was ruled out for tonight. Johnson impressed just about everyone, and maybe even himself during this game. The rookie recorded 9 points on 3-5 shooting. While his stat line doesn’t tell the entire story, his presence in the paint during this game certainly does. He finished the game with a +26, which was the second highest on the team behind Paul George.
Obviously Johnson shouldn’t be starting over Steven Adams, but he definitely should be playing more minutes. He displayed great awareness on the court tonight. He even proved to be able to knock down clutch shots when he drained a 15 footer with just a few minutes to go. His ability to shoot from outside the paint could be huge for the Thunder.
- This Team Lives and Dies by the 3.
If you’ve watched even just one Thunder game this season, you know they aren’t afraid to shoot from beyond the arc. Even with all the shooters on this team, the Thunder haven’t shot well from beyond the arc. However, tonight the team went 11/26 for 42.3%.
When this team is hitting from outside they can do some serious damage. They can also shoot themselves out of the game when shots aren’t falling. It will be key for this team to learn when and when not to pull the trigger from deep.
- Russell Westbrook Needs to be More Aggressive.
This Thunder team plays best when Russell Westbrook is playing aggressive on the offensive end. It’s clear he enjoys being a point guard who dishes the ball to his teammates, but he still needs to realize he is the best player on this team. The Thunder were dominating when Westbrook was shooting early. He finished the game with only 16 shots. I’d like to see him shoot around 20 per game. But hey, a win is a win. It’s hard to complain about who took which shots after a win. In the end, I think this team is better off when Russell Westbrook isn’t afraid to pull the trigger.
Home Again on Sunday
The Oklahoma City Thunder will be back in action again on Sunday evening. The team will take on the Dallas Mavericks at 6:00 PM CST. The game will be televised on FSOK and broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM. This game should be an easy win for the Thunder. It’ll be a great game to keep this momentum going for OKC.
Article written by Craig Hofeld. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.