By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — OKLAHOMA CITY -- While the outside world lives to marvel and discuss Oklahoma City’s offensive prowess, coach Scott Brooks normally takes a different view. He likes to brag about the tenacity and fierceness of the Thunder’s defense. To him, it’s what the team’s success has been built on.
However, after Sunday’s 125-117 loss to the L.A. Clippers, Brooks wasn’t able to do much boasting.
“I think it’s obvious we have to get back to playing defensive basketball,” Brooks said. “We’re a very good defensive team, but we didn’t play like that tonight. We gave up 44 points in a quarter, that’s usually what we allow in a half. We just have to get back to what we do well.”
For the Clippers, it was easily their biggest road win of the season, and one the players know they needed.
“This one was big for us,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said. “We haven’t really made a statement on the road. We’ve won games, but we hadn’t won big games. So this was great for us.”
The win broke a two game losing streak for the Clippers while handing the Thunder their second straight defeat at home. But Kevin Durant isn’t panicking yet.
“Every night we’re not going to be great,” Durant said. “Unless you guys come in and beat us up all the time and talk negative to us, we’re going to think that way. So, we have to keep our heads up, keep pushing and keep getting better. Just learn from our mistakes and we’ll be all right.”
With 4:29 left in the fourth quarter, L.A. Clippers guard Chris Paul knocked down a wide-open 3-pointer to give the Clippers a 112-109 lead. Thunder guard Russell Westbrook responded with a 3-pointer of his own to tie game.
The next trip down the court, Durant hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put Oklahoma City up by three with 2:35 left. However, the Clippers hit four straight free throws to go ahead by one.
After Durant missed two free throws of his own, L.A. guard Jamal Crawford drained a 3-pointer to put the Clippers (38-20) up by four with 1:30 on the clock.
A layup by Durant cut the deficit to two. But Crawford answered again with a jumper in the lane with 45 seconds left. Westbrook missed an ill-advised three and the Clippers put the contest away at the free-throw line.
Crawford finished with 36 points to lead the Clippers. But it was his play down the stretch that had him impressed.
“I’ve always been comfortable in that position late,” Crawford said. “But now I have such good players around that they attract attention as well. Shots are a little bit easier. Coach called had great plays down the stretch. It’s a product of everything — kind of a perfect storm.”
Despite an injured hand, Paul had 18 points to go along with 12 assists. Forward Matt Barnes scored 24 points while Griffin added 20 points on six-for-15 shooting.
Durant led all scorers with 42 points (15 for 30) and 10 assists. It was his ninth 40-point game of the season. Forward Serge Ibaka added 20 points while Westbrook scored 13 points in his second game back from injury. Guard Derek Fisher came off the bench to shoot 5-for-8 from 3-point range on his way to 15 points.
“When he brings it every time, just toughness and his want is inspiring,” Brooks said about Fisher. “He makes his guy struggle to score the basketball and that’s what we need to have all our players do.”
Notes: Kevin Durant on Jason Collins become the first openly gay player in the NBA: “From what I’ve heard ... great teammate that puts his body on the line, and I can roll with anybody like that.” ...... Kendrick Perkins sat out Sunday’s game against the Clippers after sustaining a strained left groin Thursday during a loss to the Miami Heat. He will be sidelined into next week, where he will get further evaluation from a specialist. Rookie center Steven Adams started in place of Perkins ... Three days later, Thunder coach Scott Brooks was still stunned with how poorly his team played against the Heat. “It was odd,” Brooks said. “I was thinking this doesn’t happen to us. We don’t get beat by 20 often. I was struggling with that. I’m not disappointed in any of our guys. But I was disappointed in myself and the way we played.”
Follow me @eyeamtruth
Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.