The Oklahoma City Thunder (15-14) has a winning record for the first time this season after pulling off a 118-112 victory over the visiting Los Angeles Clippers (22-10) on Sunday night. The win is the Thunder’s 4th in a row, and it has them at 7th in the Western Conference Standings.
After trailing by as many as 18 in the first half, the Thunder did what they do and powered back to trim the deficit to just 6 points as the Clippers led 63-57 at halftime. For the fourth consecutive game, OKC won the third quarter as the Thunder outscored the Clippers 29-26 to trail by just 3 headed into the final frame.
The Thunder worked to take over the game, but the Clippers would not go away, and with a a little over 6 minutes to play, Los Angeles was in control 98-90. That changed when OKC went on a 13-4 run to take a 103-102 lead with 3:05 left in the game.
The Clippers briefly took back the lead as they went up 106-105, but the Thunder answered with a 9-0 run to go up 114-106 with just 34 seconds left to play. OKC closed out the game by outscoring LA 28-14 in the final 6:09 to come away with the win.
Shai Shines, Paul George Sputters
When the Thunder traded Paul George to the Clippers, I was distraught. I couldn’t believe it. Once I was able to comprehend the reason for the trade, and I took a look at what OKC received in return, I wasn’t thrilled, but I definitely wasn’t quite as upset. I had watched Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as a rookie in LA, and I knew he had a lot of promise. He showed it tonight against his former team.
SGA tied his career-high in scoring of 32 points for the second consecutive game, and he did it on 12-of-25 (48.0%) shooting. He only shot 3 threes, but he made 2, and he was 6-for-6 from the free throw line. That’s some high volume, high efficiency scoring from inside the perimeter.
On the flip side, Paul George had a mediocre game at best. George scored just 18 points on 6-of-17 (35.3%) from the field, including 2-of-5 (40.0%) from 3. He was also just 4-of-6 (66.7%) from the free throw line.
Paul George is obviously the better player right now, but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was the better player tonight, and as far as potential goes, there’s really no telling who will have accomplished more by the end of their respective careers.
Billy Donovan COTY?
Thunder head coach Billy Donovan came into this season prepared to carry out the final year of his contract. Nobody expected him to be signed to a new one, but at the same time, he was essentially given a clean slate with a single season to prove himself, and that’s exactly what he’s done.
OKC was expected to win somewhere around 30-35 games, and they certainly were not expected to battle for a playoff position. However, 29 games into the season, the Thunder has already won 15, they have a winning record, and they are 7th in the West.
Billy Donovan is a major reason for the Thunder’s success. But don’t take it from me. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers was asked about Donovan after the game, and he said, “Billy is a good coach. He’s been a good coach, and he’s never forgotten how to coach. I think we get so tied up into records and all that, and we should as well, you have to earn it each year I guess, but Billy has never forgotten how to coach. He’s an excellent coach.”
When teams play well, players get the credit. When teams play poorly, coaches get the blame. In the Thunder’s case, Billy Donovan deserves a lot more than credit. He deserves a contract extension.
Wrapping Up the Home Stand
The Oklahoma City Thunder has one more game left in the current five game home stand when they host the Memphis Grizzlies (11-19) on Thursday. This will be the second visit to OKC in 8 days for the Grizzlies. The first matchup last Wednesday ended in a 126-122 win for OKC despite the fact that Memphis led by 24 in the third quarter.
Tip-off for that game is at 7 PM, and it be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
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