The Clippers thrashed the Oklahoma City Thunder 122-105 to take a 1-0 lead in their Conference Semi-Finals series, shelling the Thunder from long-range and taking advantage of numerous Thunder lapses.
Chris Paul scored 32 points, shooting a staggering 80 percent including eight three-pointers, to go with 10 assists. No player has ever had 30 points and 10 assists while hitting 80 percent of his field goals.
Blake Griffin had 22 points and Jamal Crawford had 17 for the Clippers, who got out to an early lead and never looked back.
Doc Rivers thoroughly out-coached his counterpart, Scott Brooks. Whenever Brooks attempted to go small to match the Clippers’ smaller lineup, Los Angeles had success inside. If the Thunder tried to go big with Perkins and Ibaka, the offense suffered and the Clippers continued to pull away.
With Chris Paul pulling the strings and the rest of the Clippers’ passing game on-point against a Thunder defense that appeared a step slow all night, Los Angeles constantly found open shooters in the corner or enjoyed unfettered access to the lane.
The Thunder allowed the Clippers to shoot 55 percent from the floor and over 50 percent from behind the three-point line, where they hit 15 of their 29 tries.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook both played decently, the problem was a team-wide lack of energy and defensive commitment. Durant scored 25 points on 9-19 from the floor while Westbrook topped him with 29 points on 9-14 shooting.
Oklahoma City resorted to Hack-A-DeAndre in the second half, sending the center to the free-throw line for a three-minute stretch where he only hit one of seven tries.
However, Doc Rivers stuck with him for his normal minutes, allowing the center to attempt to ride out the tactic.
For all the scheme can draw teams back into the game, intentionally fouling a poor free-throw shooter is counter-intuitive, especially for the Thunder.
Oklahoma City’s attack is heavily dependent on being able to break out for transition scores. Intentionally fouling means every possession starts with the Clippers’ defense ready and waiting after the foul shot.
Add to that the notion that DeAndre Jordan could eventually find his range and make just enough free-throws to render the tactic more harmful than helpful. Just splitting his free-throws would be efficient enough.
The final tenet to intentional fouling is the confidence boost it gives the opposing team, who know the only way they can be stopped is by refusing to play half-court basketball.
Oklahoma City must now regroup from their humiliating loss and avoid falling into a 2-0 hole at home.
Los Angeles Clippers
Chris Paul: 30 points, 12-14 FGS, 8-9 3 FGS, 10 assists
Blake Griffin: 22 points, 7-16 FS, 5 rebounds
Jamal Crawford: 17 points, 6-11 FGS, 3-6 3 FGS
Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook: 29 points, 9-14 FGS, 4 rebounds, 4 assists
Kevin Durant: 25 points, 9-19 FGS, 4 rebounds, 4 assists
Serge Ibaka: 12 points, 6-9 FGS, 6 rebounds
Game 2 @OKC: Wednesday, April 7th. Tip: 9:30pm ET