Game of the Night: Oklahoma City Thunder 107, Los Angeles Clippers 101

imageKevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder held off a furious fourth-quarter comeback attempt to strike a decisive blow in the race for the second seed in the West.

The Thunder led by as many as 15, 94-79, early in the fourth quarter before a 13-0 Clipper run fueled by Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan put pressure on the road team to respond.

And respond they did. Russell Westbrook and Durant came up with huge shots to halt the run and keep the Thunder ahead long enough to come out victorious.

Westbrook and Durant did their usual double-act, combining for 57 points despite Durant shooting just 8-26.

It was only during that short-lived Clipper run that the Thunder looked capable of losing the game as their offense floundered. One of the few knocks on the Thunder this season has been that, when games get tight, their offense can be reduced to four players watching either Durant or Westbrook hold the ball.

Contrast that with Los Angeles’ high-tempo style of play. Doug Collins pointed it out in commentary that there are times the Clippers take on the persona of Mike D’Antoni’s Seven Seconds Or Less Phoenix Suns team as they fire the ball up court even after made baskets.

DeAndre Jordan may have only scored 10 points, but six of those served to ignite a quiet crowd. His back-to-back dunks – one over the outstretched Serge Ibaka, the other on a great pick-and-roll play – helped the Clippers close out the first half strong.

He converted another alley-oop dunk in the second half as the Clippers began a run that utilised their greatest assets. With Jordan in the center and Chris Paul running point, the Clippers filled the floor with J.J. Redick, Hedo Turkoglu and Matt Barnes.

With four dangerous three-point shooters on the floor, the Paul-Jordan pick-and-roll becomes almost impossible to defend as committing an extra man to prevent the inevitable lob-pass leaves one of the shooters wide open.

The first half was a rather chippy affair with Blake Griffin and Kendrick Perkins both receiving technical fouls for separate incidents. Both teams constantly questioned the officials’ calls on almost every play as yet again Blake Griffin had to deal with a team playing him physically.

The win moves Oklahoma City to 57-23 and grants them some breathing room ahead of the third-seeded Clippers (now 55-24).

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