On Dec. 17, the Thunder knocked around the Spurs in a 107-93 win.
Until Sunday in Los Angeles, that was the best win of the season.
As good as they are, and who knows how good everything will ultimately end up for the Thunder, blowing a lead and rallying for a 108-104 win against the Clippers is this season’s best moment for the Thunder.
This team has hit shank after shank on the road the past month, going winless in its last three and just 2-6 since beating these same Clippers on Jan. 22 in Los Angeles. So when the Thunder’s 19-point lead completely evaporated and they became victims of the super-rare seven-point play, it sure looked like everything was going sideways again.
Instead of a collapse, which would have been followed by disastrous side effects, the Thunder figured it out. And that’s something we really haven’t seen all season, despite a 43-16 record.
Instead of Clipper momentum, Oklahoma City can feel pretty good about finishing the regular season a perfect 3-0 against Los Angeles, can feel better about ending a three-game road losing streak and can start gathering some national momentum with a home win Tuesday against the other Los Angeles team.
Are there issues? Sure, because the loss of James Harden to Houston in the offseason is a concern — still. The Thunder need desperately to develop a third, consistent scorer. Kevin Martin was bad, going 3-for-12, and clearly coach Scott Brooks isn’t sold on his bench play.
Yet none of that matters when Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant played at hero mode throughout. Westbrook (29 points, 10 assists) played 40 minutes, Durant (35 points, nine rebounds) played 45, and they were so good against the Clippers that the team’s deficiencies weren’t exaggerated.
Reggie Jackson played eight minutes and was minus-9 on the plus-minus scale. Defensive whiz Ronnie Brewer didn’t play and neither did recently re-acquired Derek Fisher.
Today’s not the day to pile on about what needs to happen. Today’s a day to admire Westbrook and Durant and the fact Oklahoma City proved it could play well. On the road. Against a quality opponent.
Serge Ibaka delivered a cheap shot to Blake Griffin. Maybe he should have been ejected, but instead, he had meaningful baskets in the closing moments, finishing with 16 points and helping the Thunder finish the game on a 9-4 run after falling behind with 1:30 to play.
Two days ago, the Thunder lost on a last-second shot in Denver, and Sunday in Los Angeles it looked like the Thunder would give up second place in the Western Conference standings.
Instead, Oklahoma City completed a sweep of the Clippers and left Los Angeles feeling pretty good.
That’s what happens when you get your best win of the season.