Clippers Loss to Thunder Answers Questions
Matinee games are rough. Kings head coach Darryl Sutter likes to call them "pajama parties." The Clippers certainly played like that against the Oklahoma City Thunder throughout most of the game.
Oklahoma City regularly cut throught the Clippers defense at will while the Clippers coughed up the ball 16 times in the first half. In the third quarter it was more of the same. Kevin Durant, who scored 35 points, drove the hoop with just over four minutes left in the quarter to give the Thunder a 19-point lead.
The Clippers then decided to go into desperation mode: playing a 3-2 zone on defense. It worked. A Chris Paul three-point play at the end of the quarter cut the lead to nine points. Then came the low blow.
After the Clippers got the lead down to one point, the Thunder worked it back up to a six point lead with just over two minutes remaining. After Matt Barnes hit a three, Serge Ibaka got Blake Griffin to Thunder Down Under so to speak.
It was ruled a flagrant-one foul which gave Griffin two free throws and the Clippers the possession. Griffin hit one of the free throws, and Jamal Crawford hit a three-pointer. One trip down the floor gave the Clippers seven points, their first lead of the game at 100-99 and Lawler's Law: the first to 100 wins.
Except the Thunder then figured out the Clippers zone. Russell Westbrook easily cut through the defense for a layup. Ibaka hit a layup while Griffin took his sixth foul of the game.
The Thunder won the game 108-104 sweeping the three-game season series. To answer the questions I brought up Friday night:
Just how good is the Clippers defense? They had to resort to a 3-2 zone which the Thunder figured out by the end of the game. So the answer is, "not very good."
With all the scoring the Thunder does, how will the Clippers half-court offense look? 21 turnovers. That offense was pretty damn ugly.
Can the Clippers beat the Thunder? No.
This game made it a near confirmation that the Clippers are not going to win the title this season. Fans will talk about how close the Clippers came, how their defense turned it on in the second half. But no. A close loss is still a loss. And that defense was merely a zone which took the Thunder a quarter to figure out how to exploit.
Sorry. It's just not going to happen. I can see them in the Western Conference Finals against the Thunder. But in the Finals? That's a stretch.
Sunday made it clear that the NBA Finals will be a matchup between the Thunder and the Miami Heat.