The Thunder aren’t taking too kindly to the idea that the West goes through Los Angeles.
At first it was the Lakers that were supposed to dominate the Western Conference with their recent acquisitions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash; then it was the Clippers, who jumped out to an 8-2 start to the season. Their depth and balance in both first and second team production left many opponents struggling to keep pace and many analysts touting their prowess. Well, Oklahoma City made a statement Wednesday night. The midwest still believes the Western Conference is theirs, with or without James Harden.
Oklahoma jumped out to a 59-49 first half lead, but then gave it all back in the next two quarters of play leaving the contest tied after regulation. It is in these big time games and high-pressure situations that good players show why they are great. This was the case with Kevin Durant who led all scorers with 35 points on 7-19 shooting from the field and 19-21 from the free throw stripe. Russell Westbrook added 23 points and nine assists, while Serge Ibaka went for 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Most importantly though, the Thunder went to their two-man wrecking crew of Durant and Westbrook when it counted and they came through. In overtime Durant and Westbrook scored all 15 of the Oklahoma City points. This is a team poised to take the West with or without Harden.
The Clippers showed why they are legitimately a threat to win the West as well. Their strengths of deep bench contribution and well-distributed execution is exemplified in the fact that they had five players in double-digits. Griffin lead the Clippers with 23 points, but Jamal Crawford chipped in 20 from the bench and Eric Bledsoe added another 11.
The real question mark was Chris Paul, who went a paltry 2-14 on the night. His poor shooting single-handedly cost the Clippers the win in regulation. He also went 0-3 from 3-point land. This isn’t the type of big game performance the Clippers need from the point guard some consider the best in the NBA. On this night Westbrook clearly outplayed Paul at point and showed why Oklahoma City sacrificed a future with Harden to secure their one-two punch of Durant and Westbrook.
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