LOS ANGELES – There’s nothing wrong with having a little fight, but maybe Clippers forward Matt Barnes had too much Wednesday night.
Barnes has never been the kind of player to back down from a confrontation on the court, but it got him thrown out of a game at Staples Center – and maybe it made him question whether he should keep sticking up for his teammates.
Barnes was ejected in the second quarter of the Clippers’ 111-103 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder after coming to the defense of forward Blake Griffin. His altercation with Thunder forward Serge Ibaka got both players thrown out, but it also gave the Clippers a spark that they carried into the second half.
After falling behind by 10 points in the second quarter, they outscored Oklahoma City 30-16 in the third quarter. After going 0-3 against the Thunder last season, it marked the Clippers’ first win over their Western Conference rivals since April 2012.
Coach Doc Rivers said games like this help him learn about his team, and he may have learned a lot.
Such as? “That we can fight back,” he said. “The first three, four minutes of the game, we looked great. Then right when they made the run, I thought we caved in a little bit. We gave in to their intensity. They were into our bodies. They were the more physical team.
“At halftime we talked about it, and they scored 41 points in the second half. We gave up zero transition points in the third quarter.”
At halftime, they also had to deal with the loss of Barnes, a physical, fearless player who is often the first to enter a scuffle. When Griffin and Ibaka hooked arms under the basket and became tangled with 6.9 seconds left in the second quarter, Barnes was the first player into the fray.
He pushed Ibaka with both arms, and Ibaka responded by making a fist and pulling his arm back. Players pushed and shoved, but only Barnes and Ibaka were thrown out.
Later, from the Clippers locker room, Barnes tweeted an expletive that essentially said he loved his teammates like a family, but “I’m done standing up” for them, using a derogatory term. “All this (expletive) does is cost me money.”
He wasn’t around after the game, but most of his teammates saw the tweet and insisted Barnes wasn’t going to turn his back on them.
“Matt is the best teammate I’ve ever had,” J.J. Redick said. “I don’t know what he meant by it, but I know what his intent is for his teammates and I’ll leave it at that.”
River said he appreciated the fact that Barnes was willing to defend a teammate, but getting ejected is never advisable.
“Matt is a tough guy, and he sticks up for his teammates,” Rivers said. “At least he did on that one and that’s good.
“I think he was very emotional that he got thrown out, so I get that part. The choice of words, that’s a word I’m not a fan of in all venues.”
Griffin called the initial incident with Ibaka “just a little bit extra after the play.” He didn’t know Barnes had gotten involved until he heard the crowd react.
“This is less than two hours after this incident, so I think we should let it cool down a little bit and we’ll see how everybody feels,” he said. “But we appreciate what Matt does. He’s a great teammate. He’s got our backs and we’ve got his back.”
Chris Paul said, “He’s one of the best teammates I ever had. Matt has a big heart. He goes out there and competes every night. He’s not scared of nothing, so he’s good.”
Barnes is likely to face a league fine, and perhaps even a suspension. At the time he was tossed, he was 0 for 5 from the floor, compared to Ibaka’s 6 for 6.
The Clippers clearly surged in the second half. All five starters scored in double figures, with Griffin totaling 22 and Chris Paul finishing with his ninth consecutive double-double: 14 points and 16 assists.
Kevin Durant had 33 for the Thunder, and Russell Westbrook added 19 points and 10 assists.