OKLAHOMA CITY — The challenge for the Clippers on Thursday night was to keep playing when they weren’t at their best and to keep playing even though they were facing a tough Oklahoma City team.
That turned out to be too tall of an order for the Clippers, who dropped a 105-91 decision to the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Clippers never led.
They fell behind by 11 points in the first quarter, 13 in the second, 11 in the third and 15 in the fourth.
The Clippers cut their deficit in each quarter, getting as close as six points in the fourth quarter.
But they never were able to climb out of the hole.
“We gave ourselves a fighting chance,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. “That’s what you want when things aren’t going well. What I want to get to, though, is to be able to win a game against a great team when you don’t have your game. And I thought we had a chance to do that tonight, but we kind of let go of the rope.”
The Clippers (8-5) were playing on consecutive nights and the Thunder (8-3) had two days off before this game.
Oklahoma City, which shot 51.9% and got 28 points from Kevin Durant, took advantage of poor defense by the Clippers.
“I’m hoping in six weeks or eight weeks from now, our defense will allow us to stay in the game,” Rivers said. “I felt in the first quarter, you could see we didn’t have it. Offensively, everybody was kind of missing shots and we didn’t have any rhythm, no speed.”
Chris Paul had 17 points on seven-for-11 shooting, 12 assists and five rebounds. It was his 13th consecutive game to start the season with at least 10 points and 10 assists, extending an NBA record he set Wednesday night at Minneapolis.
Paul wasn’t happy that he was called for a flagrant one foul on Thabo Sefolosha in the second quarter.
“We never really got into the pace we wanted because we were taking the ball out of the net so often,” Paul said. “Every now and then, we did make a run, but we never could sustain it.”
Blake Griffin had 27 points and 10 rebounds to go along five assists.
Griffin had 15 points in the third, seemingly single-handedly keeping the Clippers in the game.
After a few of his shots in the third, Griffin glared at TNT analyst Charles Barkley, who has been critical of Griffin in the past.
“I wasn’t looking at him,” Griffin said, smiling.
Another issue for the Clippers was the free-throw disparity.
The Thunder, which lost to the Clippers last week at Staples Center, made 19 of 29 free throws. The Clippers made seven of 15.
“I didn’t shoot any free throws tonight,” Paul said. “I played 36 minutes and I couldn’t even get to the line. We’ve got to do better.”