Former Clippers players and rising star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and his Oklahoma City Thunder (6-8) were defeated at Staples Center by the Los Angeles Clippers (12-4) last night 120-106. The Clippers took advantage of the Thunders cold start and lack of a rim protection since the departure of Steven Adams, and pounded the ball inside early and often . The team did not shoot all that great from the 3 point line, going only 10 for 33, but their presence inside helped them get to a 20 point lead in the first quarter, and build one as high as 27. The Thunder refused to lie down and accept defeat though, putting up a fight all the way until the end. They never got the lead down into single digits, but they forced the Clippers to have to keep their starters in during the fourth quarter to keep them at bay.
STAR OF THE GAME
I could easily give it to Kawhi Leonard and his 31 points for this game, but I am going to choose Paul George with his 29. He may have scored 2 points less, but he had a higher field goal percentage of 53% to Kawhi’s 48%. He also had a much a higher +/- rating than him at +17, compared to Kawhi’s +2. PG13 also had 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and a steal. If I am going to nitpick, he did have a team and game high 5 turnovers. He has going to have to start taking better care of the ball, because he’s been doing that a high clip lately. George really stood out in this game, looking as smooth as ever. He is obviously really trying to shake what happened with him during last season’s playoffs in the bubble from NBA fans’ collective memory. In this early part of the season he is playing at a MVP level. If the award were to be given out today, he very well may be the recipient.
Although they have shown a bit of an improvement on this front, they still have trouble holding on to big leads. When they start going cold from the outside and can’t seem to make anything, they start to hang their heads and let the other team back in the game. They give the other team hope, when they should be stepping on their throats. Enabling the opposition to fight all the harder. Making games that should be over after the 3rd quarter, into hard-fought to the bitter end. Management still needs to address the team’s biggest need, and go out and acquire a true point guard however they can. As much as I like Patrick Beverley, he is a below average playmaker. When the going gets tough, they need someone with the ability to calm things down and call the right plays out on the floor if they do not want to repeat what happened to end last year.
Serge Ibaka and his double double. I have never been a fan of him up until this season (to be perfectly honest flat-out loathed him ever since the game years ago where he punched my all-time favorite Clippers player, Blake Griffin in the crotch, when he himself was on the Thunder) but he has started to grow on me. He is consistently voted one of the top 5 dirtiest players in the league, but despite that, his ‘gritty’ defense down low has helped the team tremendously so far this year. A large part of coach Ty Lue’s game plan for this one one was to exploit the Thunders weakness at the hole by running more post-up plays than they typically do. Serge was the beneficiary of this, as he pounded the Thunders bigs in the post throughout the game. The results of which was his best offensive game of the season so far, putting up 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Rematch against the same Oklahoma City Thunder, Sunday, January 24 at 1:00PM
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