Clippers 86, Thunder 80 (end of third quarter)
OK, everyone remembers Sunday's 16-point rally by the Clippers at home. Well, the Thunder only have to make up six as they trail the Clippers, 86-80, after three quarters at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.
But, as evidenced by Sunday’s Game 4, there are some advantages to being at home. Here’s what the Clippers need to stay on top.
--Blake Griffin, who has 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting, needs to stay hot.
--The Clippers need to find a way to get J.J. Redick open, who is having a good night with 16 points.
--Jamal Crawford, who was shooting 2 for 8 before making a four-point play, needs to make some more shots.
--And Chris Paul, with 11 points and 13 assists, need to be Chris Paul.
Russell Westbrook was virtually unstoppable in the third quarter for the Thunder, scoring 14 points to go with the 15 he scored in the first half. Kevin Durant continued to struggle, perhaps a big reason the Clippers were in front, making only 3 of 17 shots but he was 10 for 10 at the foul line.
If fouls and free-throw shooting become a factor in the fourth quarter it wasn’t a good sign that both Paul and Matt Barnes picked up their third fouls within the first minute of the quarter.
In the early part of the third quarter, the teams pretty much traded baskets with no real momentum from either team.
DeAndre Jordan picked up his fifth foul with 4:56 to play meaning the Clippers needed some quality minutes from Glen (Big Baby) Davis. What did David do, finished the quarter with five fouls.
The Thunder closed it to two, 70-68, with 4:38 to play on a Westbrook basket. And, with 3:04 to play, Westbrook converted a three-point play to close the margin to one, 74-73.
But the Clippers got bailed out down the stretch when Crawford made a four-point play (a three plus the foul) and a three-point play (two plus the foul).
Clippers 58, Thunder 52 (Halftime)
If we know anything in this series it’s that no lead—no matter how big or small—is safe.
But still, you would rather be on the front end of a small lead than the back end. The Clippers took a six-point lead, 58-52, into halftime Tuesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.
The Thunder is actually lucky to be so close considering they have only been shooting 38% with MVP Kevin Durant a miserable 2 of 9. But at the free-throw line they have been strong, making 22 of 25 shots.
Blake Griffin was the Clippers' leading scorer with 15 points and a revitalized J.J. Redick had 13, including 3 of 4 from three-point range. Chris Paul had 9 points with 7 assists.
Russell Westbrook led the Thunder 15 with Durant getting 13.
As well as the first quarter started for the Clippers, it went just as poorly in the second. With Paul on the bench the Clippers had poor ball movement and the Thunder took advantage.
With 10:30 to play DeAndre Jordan picked up his third foul and the Clippers aren’t real strong with big men coming off the bench. Foul trouble could play a part in deciding this game. In addition to Jordan, Griffin has three as does Serge Ibaka for the Thunder.
The Thunder rolled off a 12-3 run to close it to one, 38-37, with 8:32 to play on a Reggie Jackson three. Darren Collison turned it over on the next possession and the Thunder had their first lead, 39-38, since it was 2-0.
The Clippers went back up on a Danny Granger three. Actually, at that point Granger had scored all seven Clippers points in the quarter.
Granger’s three was the start of a 12-2 run by the Clippers with 4 points out of Paul, 3 from Jamal Crawford and 2 from Griffin. It gave the Clippers a nine-point lead, 50-41.
The Thunder closed the quarter strong with a 9-3 run before Redick made his third three at the buzzer.
Clippers 34, Thunder 25 (end of first quarter)
The Clippers had to be reasonably happy after the first quarter of Tuesday’s Game 5 when they rolled up a 34-25 lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.
The best-of-seven series is tied, 2-2.
Once again Blake Griffin was a dominant force scoring 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting. Was it leftover energy from Game 4’s come-from-behind victory? Or maybe the Thunder just wasn’t playing that well?
A telling stat: Kevin Durant only has 6 points on 1-of-4 shooting. Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 8 points.
You could tell things might be going the Clippers' way early in the first quarter. First of all they haven’t had the miserable shooting night that afflicted them in Game 4.
J.J. Redick, who has played poorly the last two games, started by making the first and second shots (this one for three) in the midst of a 9-0 Clipper run that gave them a 9-2 lead. Redick finished the period with 10 points including two three pointers.
And Griffin made his first three shots, always a good sign.
Then there is Matt Barnes, who was 0 for 6 in Game 4, made two-of-three three pointers and finished the quarter with 8 points.
In fact, the Clippers shot 50% in the opening quarter, double the 25% they shot in Game 4.
After the Clippers jumped to that 9-2 lead, the Thunder battled back to three, 11-8. But that’s when the Clippers went on a 12-4 run. The keys to that run: Griffin with 7 points, Barnes for 3 and Paul got 2.
Things got a little chippy with 5:04 to play when Russell Westbrook was assessed a flagrant foul for taking down Griffin on a layup. Griffin made the shot and the free throw for a three-point play.
The Clippers did start to unravel late in the period as the Thunder went on a 10-4 run to close the period, including a flagrant foul by Darren Collison with 2 seconds to play.
As for another negative, DeAndre Jordan picked up two quick fouls and Paul got his second foul late in the period.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled sports programming.
After the thrill of the Clippers incredible fourth-quarter rally Sunday was replaced by Donald Sterling’s attacks on Magic Johnson on Monday and followed on Tuesday just before game time with more Magic and Donald, it’s now time for some basketball.
About ninety minutes after the next segment of the Sterling saga airs on CNN tonight, Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinal gets under at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. The Clippers and Thunder are tied 2-2 in the best-of-seven series.
In a tie series, Game 5 is always considered the most crucial, that is until Games 6 and 7 are played. In the NBA, the team that wins Game 5 has won 83% of the series. Part of the that, of course, is because the team that hosts Game 5 also gets to host the winner-take-all Game 7.
The Clippers have tried to stay away from the distraction that Sterling has created but as Blake Griffin told The Times' Broderick Turner “it’s kind of hard not to.”
The Clippers were successful in the fourth quarter when they went to a smaller lineup that included Darren Collison, whose 12 points in the final frame allowed them to erase a 16-point deficit.
Another tactic the Clippers used was having Chris Paul cover league MVP Kevin Durant. However, that strategy can only be a short-term one as Paul would be in too much danger of fouling out if he covered Durant for an entire game.
So, here it is, Game 5, in a few hours one team will be facing an elimination game on Thursday at Staples Center.