In game one you got the sense that the Clippers were just starting to get settled back into basketball mode after dealing with the events of their owner comments last week. After a 39 point first quarter the team never looked back in the 122-105 win.
For the winners it started and ended with a career best performance from Chris Paul. He went 8-9 from behind the 3-point line en route to 32 points and ten assists. The Thunder threw a wide variety of defenders his way as well as different defensive fronts and none of them managed to even slow him down. The Clippers themselves were impossible to slow down as the final score was nowhere near indicative of the game. The starters sat the entire fourth quarter in the blowout. The team shot an amazing 55% in the half court during the game. Blake Griffin had 23 points to go along with 5 rebounds and 5 assists. J.J Redick chipped in with 12 points. Jamal Crawford came off the bench to score 17 points. Everyone on the team played including 10 players getting a minimum of 14 minutes.
When the Thunder don’t play well, point guard Russell Westbrook is often blamed due to his low assist totals and poor field goal percentage. This wasn’t the problem in this game as he went 9-14 from the floor for 29 points. Kevin Durant went 9-19 fro 25 points. The only other double figure scorer for OKC was Serge Ibaka who had 12 points and 6 rebounds. Heading into the fourth quarter Durant and Westbrook had accounted for over 69% of the teams points and that is not a formula that is going to win games in the playoffs. All of the role players for OKC had multiple open looks from all over the court and were unable to connect, they hit 39% of their shots during that time period.
The key to the series now becomes adjustments. If Paul, who is usually a below 40% three point shooter is going to make 8-9 again then OKC may as well go home now. Coach Scott Brooks is limited in his options as far as changing the coverage on him. They can do a better job at slowing the pace of the game down. It seemed like every time the Clippers got a rebound they were pushing the ball while OKC was slow in defensive transition. If they can slow the game down and get in front of the Clippers both defensively and on the scoreboard then the Thunder can exploit a weak Clippers halfcourt offense. They will also need to get better balance in their own offensive attack. They will need players like Ibaka and Sefolosha to contribute more on the offensive end. Reggie Jackson has shown that he is capable of scoring in bunches and that may be needed if OKC wants to avoid going down 2-0.
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