From the looks of things, the Clippers have accepted the challenge that this difficult week might bring.
Day 2 of The Gauntlet on Monday night brought the Clippers a showdown with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team with the best record in the NBA and two of the league’s top young stars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
And it didn’t turn out to be much of a problem for the Clippers, not with six of them scoring in double figures and Blake Griffin putting on another dunk show during their 112-100 victory over the Thunder at Staples Center.
Chris Paul directed the attack, producing a double-double with 26 points on 12-for-16 shooting and 14 assists, doing his part to help the Clippers build leads as big as 22 points. Paul scored 15 of the team’s last 31 points.
Griffin did his share to help the Clippers win to back-to-back games by scoring 22 points, including yet another stupendous dunk, over Kendrick Perkins in the third quarter.
Caron Butler had 22 points on nine-for-16 shooting, four for eight from three-point range.
“It was just a solid win,” said Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro, whose team has won the first two in a demanding stretch of five games in seven days. “I liked the attitude and approach we had from the start.”
Indeed, the Clippers shot 62.5% from the field in the first quarter, five for eight (also 62.5%) from three-point range.
For the game they shot 56.3% overall and 52% (13 for 25) from three-point range.
“We came out with a lot of energy,” said Paul, who made two of three three-point shots. “Last night [in Denver], we played against [the No. 2 team in the Western Conference]. Tonight, it was the team with the best record in the league, very explosive. . . . But this was a good team win for us.”
The play of the night was another of those highlight-reel Griffin dunks. He took a pass from Paul, rose up and slammed the ball right over Perkins while being fouled by the burly center.
Griffin threw the ball down with his right hand with force, his left hand on Perkins’ shoulder. Then he made the free throw to complete the three-point play.
The play was shown over and over on the video screen, helping keep the fans in a frenzy.
For many fans, it was no doubt similar to the dunk Griffin threw down on Timofey Mozgoz when he played for the New York Knicks.
By the way, Griffin’s play gave the Clippers a stunning 73-51 lead that seemed to stagger the Thunder, which fell to 16-4, still the league’s best record.
“Like I said, it’s the timing of the play. It’s the timing of when I got the pass, the late rotation, all that,” Griffin said of his dunk. “If all that comes together at the right time, it happens. It’s not like I caught the ball and said, ‘OK, let’s go make something happen.’ It just kind of came together like that.”
Durant (36 points) and Westbrook (31) tried to make it happen for the Thunder, but the Clippers were too good.
The Clippers broke the Nuggets’ six-game winning streak Sunday night and next face the Jazz in Utah on Wednesday night, the Nuggets again Thursday at Staples and then complete the week with a game at Washington on Saturday.
“Overall, just an excellent win against a team that’s very deep and very difficult to contend with,” Del Negro said.
Said Thunder Coach Scott Brooks: “They are the best team we’ve played all year. They have everything.”