Coming in to game three we knew the Oklahoma City Thunder would probably have to withstand a hot start from the Clippers, who would be playing on their home court for the first time this series. What we did not know was that the Thunder would have to deal with the quick whistles of the referees. After picking up two quick fouls both Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha were on the bench only four minutes in. As expected the Clippers offense was effective, getting to the free throw line early and often. In the first quarter alone Blake Griffin scored 14 points, 8 of those at the free throw line. The Thunder played rather carelessly, turning the ball over five times in the quarter. Luckily for OKC they were shooting the ball much more effectively than they were taking care of it. They were able to score 29 points on 55% shooting, led by 15 from Kevin Durant, and found themselves only down four after one quarter.
In the second quarter the Thunder continued their hot shooting led by Durant and Russell Westbrook who combined to score 15 points. Reggie Jackson and Steven Adams were also quite effective for OKC as Jackson scored 6 points and Adams grabbed 7 rebounds, including 3 on the offensive glass. As for the Clippers, they picked up their shooting in the quarter and went blow for blow with OKC throughout. Matt Barnes was the unsung hero for LA scoring 9 points on 4-5 shooting and keeping his team in the lead, 63-61 at half.
Tensions were high in the third quarter as Serge Ibaka made contact with Blake Griffin’s nose, causing it to bleed. Griffin pleaded for a foul but was instead called for a travel on the play. Only a few minutes later Kendrick Perkins and Matt Barnes were called for a double technical after a scuffle. To make matters worse, Reggie Jackson was given a technical foul after complaining about a call when he fouled Chris Paul while shooting a three pointer with only 30 seconds to go. In the quarter Oklahoma City leaned on Serge Ibaka who was 4-4 from the field, making him 7-7 with 16 points on the game, although he had only played 21 minutes to that point due to early foul trouble. Kevin Durant contributed a quiet 8 points while Russell Westbrook dished out 6 assists in the quarter. It seemed as if the Thunder were starting to take control of the game before LA went on a run to end the quarter, giving them a 90-86 lead heading in to the fourth.
The final quarter of this game reminded us how special playoff basketball is. The teams went back and forth throughout the quarter until the Thunder finally took control late. Three big shots from deep by Caron Butler really helped the Thunder pull away. As usual, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were also huge for the OKC, hitting some key shots down the stretch. Blake Griffin made his best effort to keep the Clippers alive by scoring 12 in the quarter but it was not enough. The Thunder tried their hardest to give the game away late when Reggie Jackson and Russell Westbrook missed a combined three free throws in the final minute. The Clippers however were unable to make them pay and the Thunder picked up the 118-112 victory.
This was an all-around great performance from the Thunder. Their stars shined the brightest as Durant finished with 36/8/6 while Westbrook had 23/8/13. They also got great contributions from some of their role players. Serge Ibaka was 9-10 for 20 points and 6 rebounds including some key offensive boards down the stretch. Caron Butler and Reggie Jackson each scored 14 giving the Thunder a nice punch off the bench. OKC once again out-rebounded LA, this time 44-33, helping them control the pace of the game throughout.
The Clippers played a very good game as well. Blake Griffin was outstanding, with 34/8/4 while Chris Paul scored 20 points and dished out 16 assists. Jamal Crawford contributed 20 points off the bench as well. In the end the Clippers inability to stop the Thunder late was their downfall.
The Thunder has to be feeling great after this key victory. They now will head in to game 4 on Sunday with a 2-1 series lead and a chance to take a commanding lead before they head back home early next week. Check back in tomorrow for more reactions from the writers of Thunderous Intentions.