There was no coming back from this.
Try as they might, the Clippers could not wipe out another massive deficit against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
At least the Clippers could spare themselves an autopsy after a 120-108 loss Wednesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena that wasn't nearly that close. It was readily apparent that they played too little defense, grabbed too few rebounds and gave themselves essentially no chance.
“I just thought they picked us, they hit us, they were the more physical team, I thought they played far more desperate than us tonight,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said after his team fell 21/2 games behind the Thunder for third place in the Western Conference standings.
Oklahoma City also took a 2-1 lead in the season series between the teams, which serves as the first tiebreaker for playoff positioning should the teams finish with the same record. They will meet once more in the regular season here on March 31.
The Thunder piled up 39 points in the first quarter and never really slowed down. Kevin Durant scored 30 points and Russell Westbrook notched a triple-double with 25 points, a career-high 20 assists and 11 rebounds.
“I felt like Russ went wherever he wanted to go,” said Clippers point guard Chris Paul, whose 12 points and 16 assists seemed meager by comparison. “That's on me.”
Paul and teammate DeAndre Jordan briefly bickered near the baseline in the third quarter after Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka took a Westbrook pass for a layup. It was a theme on a night the Clippers were constantly scrambling with their defensive coverages.
The Clippers had rallied from 22 points down to beat the Thunder seven days earlier in Los Angeles, but even a trio of three-pointers from J.J. Redick during a 63-second span in the fourth quarter Wednesday barely put a dent in what had been a 19-point deficit.
Defense wasn't the only problem.
The Clippers took a not-so-grand total of two offensive rebounds in the game. Jordan grabbed only one rebound in the second half and seven for the game, ending his streak of 19 consecutive games with double figures in that category.
Rivers said it was more than the Thunder's size that mattered in their holding a 52-29 advantage in rebounding.
“Their movement, their energy and their execution was better, though, and that's why they got a lot of rebounds,” Rivers said. “We were in the wrong place a lot, so it was tough to watch.”
Every time the Clippers looked up they saw Westbrook driving past flat-footed defenders, Durant rising for seemingly effortless jumpers and more unheralded players slipping inside to take passes for uncontested dunks.
Oklahoma City entered the game dealing with its third tragedy in less than a month.
There was a moment of silence for recently deceased Thunder part owner Aubrey McClendon and Demetrius Pinckney, the younger brother of guard Dion Waiters who was slain Tuesday in Philadelphia. Waiters left the team to be with his family.
Ingrid Williams, the wife of Oklahoma City assistant coach Monty Williams, died last month in a car crash.
A bad sign came for the Clippers when they shot 59.5% in the first half and trailed, 64-62, at halftime.
There was still more than two minutes to play in the game when Rivers waved the white flag of defeat, pulling his starters. Jeff Green's 23 points on 10-for-13 shooting and Redick's 22 points were barely worth mentioning for the Clippers.
“For whatever reason, I didn't think we had the right focus or spirit or whatever,” Rivers said, “but I want to give them credit.
“They were better prepared than us tonight and that's on me.”