The Thunder took on the Los Angeles Clippers in Chesapeake Energy Arena on Saturday night. Playing through the tail end of back-to-back games, OKC held off the Clippers and handed them their third straight loss as OKC moved to 18-10 on the season.
Los Angeles got off to a good start behind 2 early three pointers from Tobias Harris. Jerami Grant displayed his much improved post game, scoring inside on three straight baskets early in the first quarter. Grant also added two blocks in the period, which set the tone of OKC’s defensive presence. Paul george contributed 13 of OKC’s 30 first quarter points, including an alley-oop assist inside a minute left in the first to give the Thunder a 30-25 lead going into the second.
It was a back and forth affair between both teams in the first half. Los Angeles was able to find their shot from deep to regain the lead after Tobias Harris’s third three-pointer. George was able to answer the LA run by hitting a transition three that helped pick up OKC’s pace. The Clippers went cold in the remaining minutes of the half. Russell Westbrook, who struggled shooting the ball the entire length of the game, hit his first shot of the game from deep with two minutes left in the half. PG followed up with another deep ball, finishing with 22 points at the half giving OKC a 61-50 lead.
OKC’s defense set the tone for the rest of the game coming out of the half, forcing Los Angeles to cough up 20 turnovers. Westbrook lobbed up an alley-oop to Steven Adams which sparked the offensive momentum. After a short LA run, Avery Bradley hit a three pointer to bring the game within single digits. Russell answered Bradley right back with one of his own, along with PG hitting one from deep to close the third. The Thunder went up 86-69 heading into the fourth quarter.
Alex Abrines hit his first three of the game to start the fourth, which marked the first bench points for OKC the entire second half. Danilo Gallinari, who finished with 28 points for the Clips, answered Abrines with a deep three that sparked a 7-0 Clippers run with nine minutes left. Westbrook showed a terrific diving effort on a loose ball attempt that came up empty, but resulted in the crowd getting on their feet. The home court advantage certainly came into effect to close out the game, as LA continued to put up a fight until the last whistle. Montrezl Harrell of the Clippers had an unexpected run of his own in the remaining minutes, scoring on four baskets including a three to make it a two possession game. Jerami Grant hit his first three pointer of the game which put it out of reach for Los Angeles, giving OKC the 110-104 victory on their home court.
Player of the Game
Despite the fact that Paul George went off Saturday night for 33 points on 11-19 shooting, Jerami Grant was the unsung hero of this game. His moves in the post early in the first quarter certainly showed improvement after closing the deal on a fade away and one. His two blocks in the first quarter also helped OKC grasp the momentum defensively early. His defensive presence contributed to Los Angeles’ 26 turnovers in the game, along with a late fourth quarter three to seal the game.
3 Quick Thoughts
- PG in the MVP conversation? Paul George has been putting up lights out numbers over the last two games, finishing with over 30 points on each of the back to back games against Denver and Los Angeles. After telling Billy Donovan to stop calling plays and “let the game come to him” his confidence level in his shot has drastically improved. It is early in the season, but PG certainly is flirting with the MVP conversation if he isn’t included in them already.
- OKC can win if Russ has off night: Tonight we saw OKC overcome the adversity in which their best player couldn’t hit a shot. Westbrook hit his first shot of the night with two minutes to go in the first half, yet OKC still maintained the control of the game. This was reassuring to see for Thunder fans to see that Westbrook is still indeed human, and this team can still win regardless of his scoring.
- Need to close out games better: The Thunder could have won this game by 30 if they just continued to play the way they did the first three quarters. During the game, it felt as if they were up by 30 at some points, yet they still let LA linger around to make it a two possession game inside the last two minutes. The intensity needs to come alive in the fourth, because OKC cannot afford to let a game like tonight slip away in hopes of remaining a top seed come April.
Monday Night Matchup
Next up for the Thunder is the second meeting of the season with the Chicago Bulls. This time it is the Thunder’s chance to play host, and OKC hopes to avenge an embarrassing 114-112 last-second loss to the Bulls just one week ago.
Tip-off is set for 7 PM CT, and the game will be televised on FSOK. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.