I understand that Russell Westbrook’s triple-double marks his 3rd of the 2014 NBA Playoffs. 31 points, 10 assists & 10 rebounds is no easy task to do once, let alone on three separate occasions. Not only have Westbrook’s 3 triple-double performances come in one playoff run, they’ve come in the last 5 games. A 30-point, 13-assist, 10-rebound Game 5 performance was not enough to take the win on their home court, but a 27-point, 16-assist, 10-rebound performance helped seal Game 7 and the series over the Grizzlies. It certainly didn’t hurt matters, especially when you consider his 31 points came off of 13-for-22 (59.1%) shooting, including 2-for-4 (50%) from beyond the arc.
Kevin Durant’s 32-point, 12-rebound, double-double was made even more impressive by the fact that he was also 1 assist shy of posting a triple-double of his own. I’m not sure if two teammates have ever posted triple-doubles in the same playoff game before. Durant’s 32 came off of a mediocre 10-for-22 (45.5%) shooting, but he managed to put work in elsewhere to turn a mediocre performance into an MVP-worthy performance.
His recent award really seemed to help spark him.
Despite those performances, better overall team shooting helped the Thunder mask another no-show from the bench scorers. Serge Ibaka’s perennially underrated offense added 14 points off of 6-for-10 (60%) shooting. But the real reason the Thunder didn’t need the bench was because starter Thabo Sefolosha stepped it up on offense in a huge way. His 14 points came off of 6-for-9 (66.7%) shooting. Sefolosha, while considered a massive pest on defense, is not known for posting shooting percentages like that. Sefolosha, Ibaka, Durant, and Westbrook all contributed to what ended up being a 50.6% shooting night for the Thunder, despite being a mere 34.8% from downtown.
Compare that to the Thunder’s 45.9% shooting performance (32.1% from 3-point range) in Game 1. Although I’ve said it from the moment the Clippers beat the Warriors to advance to the Western Conference semi-finals, the Thunder defense would need to be on top of their game from tip-off to the final buzzer to slow down the #1 offense of the regular season.
Team defense was a huge difference between Game 1 and Game 2 as well. The Clippers shot 54.9% in Game 1, including an unreal 51.7% from 3-point land. Granted, Chris Paul did most of the damage. His 12-of-14 (85.7%) performance, including 8-of-9 (88.9%) from beyond the arc was an insane performance that was asking an awful lot to match. His Game 2 performance included 17 points and 11 assists, but his 11 points came off of 6-for-13 (46.2%), including a pedestrian 2-for-5 (40%) from downtown.
That was a far cry from Game 1. He was actually outscored by J.J Redick in Game 2, who scored 18 points off of an impressive 7-for-10 (70%) shooting, including 2-for-4 (50%) from 3-point range. Blake Griffin struggled, held to 15 points off of 5-for-13 (38.5%) shooting after a 7-for-16 (43.8%), 23-point Game 1. Matt Barnes scored 11 on 4-for-8 (50%), Darren Collison scored 13 off of 4-for-8 (50%) shooting off of the bench, and Glen Davis scored 10 off of 5-for-7 (71.4%) shooting off of the bench as well.
Once all was said and done, however, the Clippers were held to 44.6% shooting in Game 2, including just 33.3% from 3-point land. 54 rebounds to the Clippers 47 in Game 1 vs. 59 rebounds to the clippers 41 in Game 2 was another big factor.
The defense needs to stay strong, as the Clippers will be looking for an answer in Game 3. Game 3 comes to us from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. Tip-off is at 9:30 CST, and will be broadcast via ESPN, and WWLS The Sports Animal.