Thunder lose their way in Game 1 loss to Clippers
MAY 06, 2014 1:13a ET
OKLAHOMA CITY - Somewhere between gaining momentum from a Game 7 win and the freedom from escaping the handcuffs of the Memphis defense, Oklahoma City lost its way.
And somewhere between the distraction of an owner who lost his mind and a quick turnaround and travel from a Game 7 win, the Cippers figured it out.
Game 1 wasn't supposed to go like this for the Thunder. After all, this was supposed to be the kind of game - a run and shoot, street ball situation - where Kevin Durant would enjoy the fresh, open spaces of a life without Tony Allen.
And Game 1 wasn't supposed to go like this for the Clippers, either. After all, they played seven games, too, then hopped a plane to get here, 48 hours after getting past Golden State.
But when Chris Paul makes his first eight 3-pointers, scores 32 points on 12-of-14 shooting, things turn out differently than even he expected.
"One of those nights," Paul said. "I don't know."
Kevin Durant was good, so was Russell Westbrook, but Paul was the best player in the game and that's the reason the Clippers ran over the Thunder, 122-105. The only thing that stood in Paul's way was his self-depricating jokes.
"Don't count on it for Game 2," he said of his eight-of-nine shooting on 3-pointers.
Things couldn't have set up better Monday night for OKC. The Thunder were playing their best basketball of the season, found their offense when they needed it most and rallied from two games down to get past stingy, stifling Memphis.
And meanwhile, things couldn't have been much worse for the Clippers and Paul. He came in banged up. A thumb injury and a hamstring. Supposedly balky and bruised. Tired, too. Paul admitted to nodding off in practice Sunday.
"You could see he felt better," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "We needed it, though. We needed a tone setter."
The Clippers were so good, so early, they didn't even need to play a single starter in the last 10 minutes of the game, so while there will be nits to be picked on everyone from Scott Brooks to the bench, the one thing no one handicapped correctly was Paul being just so much better than everyone else.
"I don't know," Rivers said. "Maybe just winning that series allowed him to breathe a little."
The Thunder were the ones expecting wide, open spaces, but now they will be waiting to exhale. The offense that was so good in the final two games of the series against Memphis was irrelevant in Game 1 vs. the Clippers thanks to the defense being so bad. The Clippers shot 67 percent in the first quarter and finished the first 12 minutes on a 29-9 run. They shot 54 percent for the game, making 15-of-29 3-pointers and scoring when they wanted from who they wanted.
And instead of continuing the momentum from the first round, Brooks switched things up by going with Thabo Sefolosha back starting, favoring defense over Caron Butler and offense.
Didn't work. The Clippers had no issue scoring and even Butler's offense was non-existent, shooting one-of-seven in 24 minutes of action. The result of this botched attempt means the Thunder go from a situation that seemed perfect to one where there are more questions and less answers to rely on.
As well as having to deal with Paul again.
"He hit eight 3s," Westbrook said of Paul. "He wasn't doing nothing crazy. You can't do too much but contest. He hit some tough shots. We can live with that."
They'll end up dying by it if the Thunder don't figure out something defensively.
"We have to play better on the defensive side of the ball," Brooks said. "Chris Paul had an unbelievable 3-point night. They were feeling comfortable. We didn't make them feel us. They were on fire from the 3-point line. We have to do a better job of guarding that line. We had to make some adjustments. It didn't work. We didn't do a good job playing big or small."
Monday wasn't the end. It was one game, but it wasn't supposed to go down like it did. Yes, Durant and Westbrook did their part (54 combined points), but past that nothing expected happened.
More disappointingly, nothing good happened.
"A loss is a loss," Durant said. "Tough to swallow on your home floor in the playoffs."
Tough to deal with when nothing works out the way it's supposed to.