Last Wednesday's meeting between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers saw the former lose a 17-point fourth quarter lead with an epic collapse that raised serious questions about their ability to beat the NBA's other top teams. This Wednesday's matchup in Oklahoma City looked headed for a blowout early in the fourth quarter, as well. The difference this time was that the Thunder continued to play well to hold on for a very convincing victory.
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant both starred as the Thunder entered the final period up 93-83 and led by as many as 19 on their way to a 120-108 win at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The biggest statistical impact came from Westbrook, who put up 25 points (9-of-15 FG, 7-of-7 FT), 11 rebounds, and a career-high 20 assists for his 11th triple-double of the season. That puts Westbrook even with the Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green for the most in the league.
Durant wasn't half-bad, either. His 30 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists led OKC on a night when the famously star-dependent Thunder showed impressive balance with six players logging at least nine points and 52.7 percent shooting from the field for the team as a whole. As usual, though, Westbrook and Durant deserve all the headlines they receive. In fact, their lines against the Clippers were historically impressive:
Westbrook is the first player with 25-10-20 since Magic in 1988. And Durant had his seventh straight 25-10-5 game, longest since Larry Bird.
— Royce Young (@royceyoung) March 10, 2016
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 10, 2016
The Clippers lacked similar dominance but were nearly as effective offensively. Jeff Green had his best game with the club by some distance (23 points on 10-of-13 FG) to lead L.A. to 50.7 percent shooting from the field and a respectable 12-of-34 mark from deep. However, the defense was found lacking for most of the game, particularly in a 39-point first quarter for the Thunder that ranks as their most prolific opening period of the season so far. The Clippers bounced back to trail by just two at halftime, but the Thunder pulled away after several minutes of the second half.
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The win means quite a bit to the Thunder, who risked seeing their lead over the Clippers for third place in the West drop to just a half-game. Their 2 1/2-game gap could grow smaller fairly soon, though, because a Saturday trip to the San Antonio Spurs looms. The silver lining is that the Clippers have an even tougher upcoming schedule that includes a visit from the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday and their own matchup with the Spurs next Tuesday. Expect some nail-biting for at least a few more weeks.
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