For Clippers, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook aren't only problem

For Clippers, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook aren't only problem
Clippers point guard Chris Paul and power forward Blake Griffin (32) give referee Pat Fraher an earful during Game 2. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The metaphor came late in an already wacky first half as players milled about during a timeout.

The lights didn't go out on the Clippers, but things got considerably dimmer.

Instead of coming home with a two-games-to-none lead in the Western Conference semifinals, the Clippers will return with a series split and enough doubt to have filled every overhead bin on their charter flight.

Can they solve the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook quandary after the twosome became terrific again during the Oklahoma City Thunder's 112-101 victory in Game 2 on Wednesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena?

Can they shrug off the specter of Shelly Sterling, the controversial co-owner who has asserted she will fight to keep the team?

Can they find their way after acting as if they were playing in the dark for much of the second half?

The arena dimmed with 27 seconds left in the first half because of a power surge, but the lights officially went out on the Clippers with 4:15 left in the game when Coach Doc Rivers pulled forward Blake Griffin with his team losing by 16 points.

Clippers playmaker Chris Paul, who was already out of the game, made one final contribution a few minutes later when he picked up a technical foul for yapping from the bench.

There actually wasn't much to say after a soggy performance all the way around.

On a stormy Oklahoma night that featured driving rain and swirling winds, the Clippers couldn't find shelter from a barrage of Durant jumpers and Westbrook driving layups.

Durant started the evening by hoisting his most-valuable-player trophy over his head with two hands, the crowd cheering wildly. The decibel level only rose as Durant (32 points) and Westbrook (31) staged their own 30 for 30 production, with Westbrook logging a triple-double and Durant falling one assist short.

"That's only 63 points," Rivers said. "You can still win the game. We've beaten them before when they've both had great games. I didn't like how they scored; it was too easy. I just thought we had way too many mental defensive breakdowns."


They also had more than a few lapses on offense.

After losing the ball to Oklahoma City's Thabo Sefolosha for a turnover that resulted in a dunk, the Clippers' Jamal Crawford threw an inbounds pass that Sefolosha intercepted, starting a possession that resulted in a Westbrook three-pointer.

Predictably, Paul couldn't replicate his scorching Game 1 accuracy, making six of 13 shots. More troubling was the play of Griffin, who went from a happy homecoming to a sad send-off with 15 points on five-for-13 shooting.

"He missed point-blank looks at the rim, open shots," Rivers said. "He'll get those shots and make them nine times out of 10 on most nights, so you live with those."

Paul might have become the first player in NBA history to pick up a foul for running into a referee in a bizarre sequence only nine seconds into the game. The referee, Monty McCutchen, called Paul for an alleged blocking foul on Westbrook.

Paul appeared to be further victimized with 6:41 left in the first quarter when he was called for being in the vicinity of DeAndre Jordan's foul on Durant. Rivers yelled at McCutchen that he couldn't guess who committed the foul.

Rivers had to rush Darren Collison into the game for Paul, a move that corresponded with the Thunder's scoring the next 11 points.

It was getting dark in a hurry for the Clippers.