Thursday, May 8, 2014

OKC Rides Out The Storm

Durant and Westbrook, Also Severe
In the late snapback game, the Thunder gave us a slightly more watchable wire job than the Clip job in Game One. It was never a runaway, and both teams started to get snarly with each other, so it kept me awake, and hey, progress!

What was impressive about this game to me was how many chances that the relatively fragile Thunder had to freak out, but didn't. With Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Clips have guys who get protected by the refs, and who are smart enough to just stop at various points on the floor and force a call. Against a team that employs Russell Westbrook, who plays the game at times like a taller and more athletic Allen Iverson (but with the same boom-bust issues), that's saying something. Westbrook went 31/10/10 for a cheap triple double, Kevin Durant followed with 32/12/9, and the rest of the team hit the boards and didn't turn it over. Add it up, and your final was Thunder 112, Clippers 101. Tied series, with neither game all that memorable, but maybe this is building to something.

It's surprisingly hard to feel confident about the Thunder, despite the higher seed, home court advantage, and reigning MVP. But that's just how bad they can look in the half court, and how befuddling it can be to watch the unstoppable Durant defer. OKC never put the Clips well and truly away tonight, but they also never let the Clips get close enough to feel bad about losing, either.

(Oh, and we also got a power outage with 27.2 left in the first half, which is always fun. Chesepeake Power is no match for OKC's Actual Thunder.)

What this game really tells you is that when the Clips, especially Jamal Crawford, aren't hitting from the arc in the half-court offense, they get a lot easier to defend. And when Chris Paul goes from Best Guard In The World, like he was in Game 1, to Just A Good Player In Foul Trouble, they really don't look all that special. Some credit, of course, has to go to the Thunder, who took better care of the ball, got out on the shooters better, and thugged it up nicely with Kendrick Perkins and Steven Adams. Between them, they got a very credible 14/14 line, with lots of hurt feelings... and if you want to look for a pattern from two games that didn't look at all like each other, it's this: the Clips are getting punked on the boards, and seeing how that happened in the Warriors series too, that's officially worrisome. (It's also why I've never been very impressed by Blake Griffin's game; dude really just does not get enough boards or blocks, given his gifts and hands.) Tonight's damage: Thunder 52, Clips 36.

But on some level, it's hard not to see this game as just a case of the Clips not wanting it enough to put a real hammerlock on the series, the way you've seen a thousand times in a best of seven. Posting Westbrook is a reasonable move, if only because it looks like you chose for him to dominate the ball, rather than just have him do it himself.

Finally, this. With the win, Derek Fisher breaks Robert Horry's record for most playoff games won, which is one of those modern-only records that still speaks to a certain ineffable quality. And counting.

No comments:

Ads In This Size Rule