The lasting image from the previous time the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers played was Blake Griffin’s emphatic dunk over Kendrick Perkins.
It was Perkins who delivered the facial this time.
Perkins hit Griffin in the face on a hard foul in the first quarter, setting the tone as the Thunder shut down the Clippers’ All-Star and beat Los Angeles 114-91 on Wednesday night.
Playing in his hometown, Griffin was held to a career-low seven points and he didn’t come close to dunking this time.
”I know with Blake, it seems like he feeds off of dunks,” Perkins said. ”If he gets a couple early dunks, he gets going.”
Instead, Griffin ended up settling mostly for long jumpers and hook shots, and went just 3 for 11 from the field.
Perkins was called for a personal foul and his league-leading 11th technical foul a little over 5 minutes into the game when he clocked Griffin in the face at the right block.
”I wasn’t trying to intentionally foul him,” Perkins said. ”It’s just a part of it. It just happened.”
Griffin called it ”a little bit” of a hard foul. He never could get going offensively, though, and failed to score in double figures for the first time all season.
”They load up on Blake,” coach Vinny Del Negro said. ”He’s shouldered a lot of the load for us most of the season and just had one of those games. … He’s trying to do all the little things. Just tonight he didn’t have it going for us.”
Kevin Durant had 32 points and nine rebounds, Russell Westbrook added 19 points and the Thunder dominated the interior, outrebounding Los Angeles 49-31 and holding a 44-22 scoring edge in the paint.
A night earlier, Oklahoma City was outscored 50-20 in the paint in a loss at Utah.
”I think we just protected the paint and played physical,” Perkins said. ”Before the game, Coach told us that they were more physical the last time we played them. So, I thought we came out and did what we needed to do to get the win and played physical.”
Randy Foye started in place of Caron Butler and scored 23 points to lead Los Angeles, which hit 37 percent on a miserable shooting night from inside the 3-point line and failed to score 100 points for the eighth straight game.
After Oklahoma City’s lead reached its largest point at 20 late in the third quarter, the Clippers reeled off 11 straight points to prompt Thunder coach Scott Brooks to call timeout and put both of his All-Stars back in the game 90 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Westbrook drove for a layup and Derek Fisher, signed just before the game after he bought out of his contract with Houston, followed a few possessions later with a 3-pointer from the left side for his first basket with the Thunder during a 12-2 response that restored the cushion to 100-81 with 6:13 left.
About 2 minutes later, Del Negro waved the white flag and sent in his reserves. The Clippers were in the middle game of a back-to-back-to-back set played entirely on the road. Los Angeles fell to 11-12 on the road this season, having lost six of its last eight.
Chris Paul finished with 13 points and 10 assists, and Nick Young scored 12 points in his second start with the Clippers after coming over in a trade with Washington.
Paul pointed out that Los Angeles is a different team from the first meeting, a 112-100 victory. Chauncey Billups was lost to a season-ending knee injury and the Clippers have lost 11 of 18 during a series of roster moves.
Paul said ”it’s getting to be a little bit embarrassing.”
”A couple losses here and there and we’re out of the playoffs,” he added. ”So, we’ve got to play with a sense of urgency. But most of all, we’ve got to be better.”
The Thunder squandered an early 10-point lead after Perkins’ hard foul but recovered to go up 66-50 at halftime behind a 30-16 scoring advantage in the paint. Durant converted a nifty reverse layup to start a string of eight straight points to finish the half.
At one point late in the third quarter, the Clippers were 10 for 18 from 3-point range but only 10 for 34 from inside the arc. For the game, they were 12 for 26 (46 percent) on 3s and 17 for 53 (32 percent) on 2-point attempts.
”We’ve got to understand that that team’s been together but we’ve got to be better. We’ve got to figure out ways to score easier but most of all we’ve got to defend,” Paul said. ”They scored on basic plays against us. We’ve got to be willing to defend better in order to give ourselves a chance.”
Notes: Oklahoma City reserve G Daequan Cook, who missed a game last week with a sore right shoulder, was out after spraining his knee in the fourth quarter a night earlier at Utah. Brooks had no update on when he’d return. … Harden got a technical for taunting the Clippers’ Eric Bledsoe after a dunk. Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha each got techs after Westbrook fouled Paul on a fast break. … Perkins has also has had three technicals rescinded or else would be in jeopardy of a one-game suspension.