May 7, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) is helped off of the court floor by Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) after being fouled in action against the Los Angeles Clippers in game two of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Better Team Shooting And Team Defense Make The Difference

May 7, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) is helped off of the court floor by Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) after being fouled in action against the Los Angeles Clippers in game two of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Tags: Oklahoma City Thunder

comments powered by Disqus