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The Los Angeles Clippers set fire to the OKC Thunder

By Ryan Rodriguez Going into this game I thought I was going to be going on and onabout two teams that showed grit and toughness by giving us fans a down to the wire game only 48 hours after their ? Continue reading ?

Blake Griffin #32 and Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers sit on the bench in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Chesapeake Arena on May 5, 2014 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Blake Griffin #32 and Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers sit on the bench in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Chesapeake Arena on May 5, 2014 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

By Ryan Rodriguez

Going into this game I thought I was going to be going on and on about two teams that showed grit and toughness by giving us fans a down-to-the-wire game only 48 hours after their emotionally taxing first round series. Instead the Clippers quickly put an end to this, or more directly, Chris Paul did. The best point guard in the league must have saved some magic connection he felt when he was shaking Stephen Curry’s hand Saturday night, because Curry is the only one who could match what Paul did to the Thunder from behind the three-point line. The Clippers’ 122-105 win was powered by the flames that shot out of Paul’s rear, and ended up engulfing the entire team, as they finished the game shooting 55% overall and 15-29 (51.7%) from the three-point line. The Thunder got solid to good games from their big 3, but they got next to nothing from their role players, and that made it impossible to keep pace.

There doesn’t seem much to take away from this game in terms of what it could tell us about the rest of the series, but there are several things we can look at. The Clippers, an average 3-point shooting team, probably aren’t going to knock down over 50% of their threes in another game, but by shooting 29 in the game they seemed focused on taking advantage of all the threes the Thunder give up (2nd highest in the league). If the Clippers can actively seek these shots each game, they should be there in abundance, and it will just be on them to shoot a little better than they did this season. Take advantage of this and the Clippers are going to have a big edge.

Something I wanted to watch during the game was DeAndre Jordan’s rim protection, especially after I saw a stat tweeted out by HPBasketball that said the Thunder had shot 70.5% in the restricted area with DJ on the court. I narrowed the parameters and focused only on times when DJ had the ability to adequately defend the shot, and through the first half when this was a game (kind of), the Thunder still shot a respectable 3-6 in the paint. DJ was able to force one turnover on top of this and two of the shots that were pretty tough finishes by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It is going to be very important that DJ keeps this number to 50% or under, because, as the Clippers’ only rim protector there isn’t much to stop the Thunder’s two stars from dunking on everyone else’s head.

Notes

  • The CP3 nickname never rang more true than last night. Paul’s 5 threes in 5 attempts was crazy, but it was a carryover of the above average three-point shooting he had in the first round (45.9%).  His agressiveness as a scorer was apparent from the opening tip and it will be interesting to see if he makes this a theme throughout the series. Paul accumulated a true shooting percentage of 1.143% last night.  I’m gonna say anything over 1.000% is fairly good.
  • The matchup I thought would be huge for this series was going to be Paul’s defense on Westbrook, and I have to say I don’t think Chris will be pushing Russ around like he did at times to Steph Curry last round. Westbrook might have gotten outplayed by Paul, but it wasn’t by much. He got his 29 points on an efficient 9-14, chipping in 4 boards and 4 assists, however he did get sucked into the frenetic pace of the game and produced 6 turnovers. I don’t think this was greatly due to Paul’s defense, but it is something the crafty point guard will no doubt use to his advantage against Westbrook.
  • I thought the Thunder did a solid job of keep Blake Griffin in check. He got 23 points, but outside of some dunks, he had to really work for his points and he seemed affected by Serge Ibaka’s length, after hitting two early bank shots. He was able to thrive as a playmaker at times though, dropping 5 assists, including 3 in the third quarter that broke OKC’s back.
  • Just a bit of evidence as to how much the role players of OKC struggled. In the first half, Caron Butler and Reggie Jackson played a combined 22:39 and shot 0-7 for 0 points, along with 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. The Thunder can’t just rely on the Big 3 for production and these are the two role players that have to provide the scoring punch to complement the Big 3. Reggie especially, was all over the place in the first round series, and he has to be a big contributor if the Thunder are going to advance.

Stats are from basketball-reference.com and nba.com.

Published with permission from Joshua Biers.

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