Below are five things to take from the Clippers’ Game 3 118-112 Game 3 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center:
1. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook took over in the final minutes. After this intriguing flashed reeks of inconsistency in their first-round matchup against Memphis, Durant and Westbrook have left the Clippers in fits. Beyond the stat lines between Durant (36 points) and Westbrook (23 points), the pair also helped close out a game that went nip and tuck for nearly four quarters.
First, Westbrook drove to the basket with ease for an open layup. Then, he buried a top of the key 3-pointer that gave the Thunder a 111-107 edge with 2:09 left. Durant iced the game then with a turnaround jumper for a 113-107 lead with 1:13 left, a play that left Clippers fans crying as much as Durant’s mom shed tears this week when her son delivered a riveting MVP speech.
2. Blake Griffin thrived through the physical play. Blood streamed out of Griffin’s nose after fighting for a rebound with Serge Ibaka. Elbows greeted him every time he entered the paint. Pushing and shoving ensued anytime he fought through a rebound. But Griffin thrived through it all, posting 34 points on 13 of 22 shooting, eight rebounds and four assists. That marked a vast improvement in Griffin’s in both Game 1 and 2 where he shot a combined 12 of 29 from the field mostly on jump shots. In Game 3, Griffin painted a different picture. He resorted toward driving to the basket with enough force that any ensuing contact became a non issue. Griffin still shot six of his attempts from the outside, including one missed three-point field goal attempt. But he complementing that developing skill by becoming more aggressive.
3. Both teams took way too many trips to the foul line.
Blame this on both the Clippers and Thunder playing physical and the officials calling things too tightly. The Clippers (made 21 of 25 free throws) and the Thunder (24 of 28 free throws) disrupted an otherwise entertaining game with too many trips to the stripe. Sometimes, the teams could have adjusted, such as when Kevin Durant inexplicably fouled Jamal Crawford at halfcourt before attempting a three-pointer just as the third quarter ended. Plenty of others, officials went overboard in calling various hand checks along the perimeter and physical play inside.
4. The Clippers couldn’t contain the Thunder’s bench. So much for the Clippers having a deep bench and the Thunder solely relying on Durant and Westbrook. Beyond Clippers forward Jamal Crawford scoring 20 points, the bench unit only provided eight points. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City’s Caron Butler (14 points) and Reggie Jackson (10 points) contributed at critical times. That included Butler hitting three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
5. J.J. Redick had a quiet night. He scored only five points on 1 of 6 shooting, marking the first time in five games he fell below single digits. Given Doc Rivers placing a high premium on outside shooting, the Clippers could not afford for him to have an off night.
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