The Clippers came home for game 3 vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder after splitting the first two games on the road. The Staples Center was packed and the fans were loud until the Thunder quieted them down with a torrid start which carried the team through most of the game as LA had to play catch-up. Most of the game was like a layup drill and free throw shooting practice for Oklahoma City. Many calls also went against the Clippers which put them in a big hole. The biggest issue was lack of defense. It is one thing if a team is hot from the outside but many professionals don’t miss too many layups which Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson and quite a few other players for the visitors had easy opportunities. Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Caron Butler were on fire from the outside, which gave the Clippers a tough time. The match-ups were also not going the Clippers way. This game was about being outplayed, out hustled and out coached.
Blake Griffin and Chris Paul led the way, which kept them in the game but poor shooting from JJ Redick and Jamal Crawford along with all the easy points Oklahoma City scored secured the game to give the Thunder a 2-1 series advantage making game 4 just about a must win for the team.
Doc Rivers was also not pleased with another Sterling distraction- this time it being Shelly Sterling, who owns half the team and wants to stay on as owner. Rivers said he doesn’t know who would want to play if she was the owner in the future.
While the Thunder totally frustrated Los Angeles on the offensive end with pests such as Nick Collison and Steven Adams, the Clippers played matador defense for so many easy shots.
Even though Griffin scored 34 points, he had a tough time stopping Ibaka on the other end as he was 9-10 and scored 20 points of his own. Paul also had his way with 21 points and 16 assists but Westbrook had 23 points and 13 assists. The Clippers had no defense for Durant who finished with 36 points. Former Clipper Butler added 14 on 3-5 three point shooting.
Coach Rivers told his team to play more physical but in the end, it was the Thunder who out-rebounded the home team 44-33 and beat them to many of the loose balls. The key is to play better defense and forcing 2 things for the rest of this series if they have any chance. #1- Not allowing so many layups or bad fouls on some of their great free throw shooters and #2- getting the ball out of Durant’s hands, which is easier said than done. He is a matchup nightmare. Of all the Clipper players, Danny Granger may have the best chance at guarding him with his length. However the big key is to have the Thunder shoot outside more as they are not that good of a shooting team if you keep them out of the paint unlike Golden State. Game 4 is now a must win after losing 118-112 and they need some big games from other sources like Crawford, Collison, Redick and Granger. More at www.clippers.com