The Oklahoma City Thunder trailed by as many as 14 points to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first half, and their comeback efforts were cut short as Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Steven Adams all fouled out on their way to a 118-110 loss at Staples Center.
The Thunder looked like a team coming off an overtime win less than 24 hours previous as the Clippers got off to a hot start. Danilo Gallinari could not miss from the get go, and he led the way early for LA. After getting behind 13-7, OKC was able to tie things up at 13-13, but the Clippers answered with a 7-0 run thanks to some hard-nosed defense.
Russell Westbrook was able to stop the run, but it didn’t take long for the Clippers to extend their lead to 30-20 as Danilo Gallinari pushed his point total to 15. The Thunder answered with an 11-2 run of their own to cut the deficit to one thanks primarily to 8 straight points from Russell Westbrook, bringing his first quarter scoring total to 15. At the end of the period, the Clippers held a 36-32 advantage over the Thunder.
OKC’s second unit tied it up at 36-36 just a couple of minutes into the second quarter, but Lou Williams ran off 5 straight points for the Clippers to retake some control. The Thunder was able to pick up some scoring, but Williams continued his run as he pushed his total to 16 points giving the Clippers a 54-46 lead with 4:45 left in the period.
Gallinari and Williams both continued to score at will as they combined for 43 first half points to lead the Clippers to a 68-56 halftime lead over the Thunder.
The third quarter brought good and bad for Oklahoma City. On the bright side, the Thunder was able to bring some momentum out of halftime and cut the deficit to 5 points through the first four minutes of the period. On the negative side, the whistle was blowing non-stop, and several Thunder players were in foul trouble early. Russell Westbrook picked up his fifth foul early in the third, and several other guys had four fouls.
With Westbrook on the bench, the Clippers were able to extend their lead to 11 midway through the third, and a couple of minutes later Paul George picked up his fifth foul as well, allowing LA to go up 86-72 with 3:49 left in the period.
The second unit answered the call, however. The Thunder defense forced the Clippers into ugly shots and bad passes, and the offense answered by hitting shots to close out the quarter on a 12-2 run after a three by Abdel Nader at the buzzer. With just 12 minutes left in the game, OKC trailed 88-84.
Nader picked up right where he left off to start the fourth as he sliced through the lane and threw down a monster jam with some contact to earn him a free throw, which he made, to make it a 1-point game.
The Clippers were able to answer, though, and after some back and forth scoring, Lou Williams hit a 3 to put LA up 97-91 with 8:41 to go in the game. The Thunder defense locked in at that point and held the Clippers scoreless for almost 4 minutes as they crawled to within one. Another minute later, Paul George hit a big three to give OKC a 99-98 lead with 4:19 left in the game.
The Thunder’s lead did not last long, unfortunately, as Galinari hit a layup for the Clippers, and then Paul George fouled out on a questionable offensive foul call. Lou Williams made it to the free throw line immediately following, but he was only able to hit one of the two shots to put LA up 101-99. Russell Westbrook made his way to the rim for a layup to tie it up at 101-101 with just 3:08 to go. Shortly after, the Thunder would take a 104-103 lead with 2:30 left on the clock, but it wouldn’t last for long.
Down by 3 and with less than a minute to play, Russell Westbrook fouled out of the game on an offensive foul, just like Paul George. The Clippers ran away with it at that point winning 118-110 as LA evened up the season series 2-2.
Thunder Player of the Game
Russell Westbrook earns player of the game honors as he did everything he could to lead the Thunder to a comeback. Despite fouling out late in the fourth quarter, Westbrook finished with 32 points on 12-23 (52.2%) from the floor–only 2-9 (22.2%) from 3–along with 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and just 1 turnover. While he did not shoot well from beyond the perimeter, Westbrook did a solid job of attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line. He was able to shoot 6-8 (75.0%) from the charity stripe, which is a solid percentage based on his struggles all season long.
Last Leg of the Road Trip
The Thunder has just one more game left in this 4-game road trip as they head to Utah to play the Jazz on Monday night. OKC will look to complete the regular season sweep over Utah, and the Jazz are just trying to pick up some wins and stay in a solid position in the Western Conference standings. Tip-off is set for 8 PM and will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
Be sure to follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram and like us on Facebook, and don’t forget to check out our latest episode of Thunder Things with the Thunder Guys on Facebook, YouTube, or TalkShoe.