By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY —
There is no love loss between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers. The last time the two franchises faced off, there was a near-brawl that led to two ejections.
There was no such drama this time around when the Thunder and Clippers faced off Thursday in Oklahoma City. Led by an aggressive Kevin Durant, Oklahoma rolled to a 105-91 victory at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
"I like the way we came out," Durant said. "We started the game well defensively and it helped us out on offense. Guys just played hard."
In the previous matchup, it was the Thunder (8-3) jumped out to a sizable lead early in the contest only to watch the Clippers erase with a third quarter onslaught. They found themselves in the same situation this time.
After a slow first half, Clippers forward Blake Griffin heated up in the third quarter. The Oklahoma City native made seven consecutive shots in a variety of ways, inside and outside.
Even so, Los Angeles was unable to gain ground. Durant and forward Serge Ibaka matched Griffin shot for shot as the Thunder held a 81-72 advantage after three quarters.
Once again Oklahoma City went to its reserves to hold onto a lead in the fourth quarter. This time it was the three-guard lineup of Jeremy Lamb, Derek Fisher and Reggie Jackson who gave the Clippers fits. The Thunder pushed the lead to 14 and cruised the rest of the way.
"We didn't play the same way," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "Just wasn't a lot of movement. We were pretty stagnant. Tonight we played at a slower pace."
Griffin paced the Clippers with 27 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Los Angeles guard Chris Paul contributed 17 points and 12 assists.
Durant posted 28 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Ibaka, who was thrown out of the previous matchup, finished with 17 points and five rebounds. Guard Russell Westbrook collected 12 points, six rebounds and five assists in the win.
"I thought that was probably as well as we can execute a game plan and execute on both ends of the floor in the second half," Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought we played good throughout the game, but really did a great job in second half."
Durant began the night on the attack. Regardless of which defender the Clippers put on him, Durant was able to get off long-range jumpers and drive to the rim. He collected 12 points in the opening quarter as Oklahoma City grabbed a double-digit lead.
"We knew we could stretch them out and catch and drive," Durant said. "Every body did a great job tonight in the pick and roll. We just tried to get there and they had really good shot blockers. Just wanted to get into their bodies and tonight we did a good job of it."
Guard Jamal Crawford (18 points) came off the Clippers' bench to halt the tide and help close the gap to 28-22 heading into the second quarter.
With Oklahoma City's starters on the bench, the Thunder went on a 13-6 run to start the second. However, after Paul was called for a flagrant-1 foul on guard Thabo Sefolosha, the Clippers began to find their shot and closed within 51-43 at halftime.
"Our defense, is trying to get better," Paul said. "We're trying to get our offense better. It's not the playoffs, it's the regular season and so different teams are going to mean different things."
NOTES: The Thunder's proficient shooting is starting to rub off on its fans. For the second game in a row, a fan hit a half-court shot for $20,000. On Monday, Cameron Rodriguez became the fourth Thunder fan this calendar year to do it. Brad Rucker is the fifth after he drained his attempt Thursday. Three connected from half-court at the end of 2012-13. ... Clippers G Matt Barnes sat out his second consecutive game due to an eye contusion that he suffered against the Memphis Grizzlies. He is expected to have retina surgery and miss the next two weeks. ... Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers put F Blake Griffin in some esteemed company when talking about Griffin not responding to the hard fouls he takes. "To me, that's the toughest guy you can be," Rivers said. "Gandhi, Martin Luther King, those guys were tough. They took the hits and kept preaching." ... Sitting courtside were Jay-Z and Beyonce. "That was crazy," Kevin Durant said. "I don't even know how to describe that right there. That's unbelievable for them to come to Oklahoma City and come watch us play. It was cool to have them there."