Clippers get pushed around in Game 2 loss to Thunder
MAY 08, 2014 2:03a ET
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Whatever was happening outside Chesapeake Energy Arena -- thunder, hail, lightning, strong winds -- didn't much compare to what was happening inside.
The Clippers struggled against a more aggressive team. They got into foul trouble, didn't play with the necessary energy, fell behind and then couldn't get back. They ran into a dynamic tandem in newly crowned MVP Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and looked fallible against a more physical opponent.
As a result, they will return to Staples Center on Friday night tied 1-1 in their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Not a bad place to be, but they weren't satisfied.
As Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, it's not going to be an easy series. Now they know why, having fallen to the Thunder 112-101 Wednesday night and feeling bruised.
"They were by far the more physical team," Rivers said, and that was only the start.
The Thunder got a triple double from Westbrook (31 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) and a near-triple double from Durant (32 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists) in what was undeniably an emotional night inside the arena. Durant was given the league's MVP trophy from commissioner Adam Silver before tipoff and received a long, rousing ovation, and everything went downhill from there for the Clippers.
"They were the aggressors all the way around the board," Clippers guard Jamal Crawford said. "They played like a desperate team. They did what they came to do tonight."
After losing Game 1 by 17 points, the Thunder were faced with the prospect of falling behind 2-0 going to L.A. But it got the benefit of several early officiating calls, resulting in two early fouls on Chris Paul, who went to the bench halfway through the quarter.
In fact, Paul was called for a blocking foul in the first minute after a Clippers turnover when he and Westbrook ran into the official. But Paul was called.
"We've got to be better," Paul said. "We can't worry about the bad whistles. You start off the game like that, turnover, me and the ref get a foul, then I get another one and go to the bench. It was tough. You could tell it was going to be a long night."
And it was. The Clippers were behind by five points at the half, but they never found a rhythm and never met the Thunder's aggressiveness with some of their own.
"They didn't do anything dirty," Rivers said of the Thunder. "They played hard and physical, but you've got to do it back, and I didn't think we did it back. We weren't very physical tonight, or mentally either. I didn't think we were very tough."
Durant and Westbrook were clearly in charge offensively, but OKC also got big games from Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha, who had 14 apiece. In contrast, Paul totaled 17 points after scoring 32 in Game 1, and Griffin finished with 15, shooting just 5 for 13.
Rivers, speaking of Durant and Westbrook, said: "I still believe that's only 63 points. You can still win a game. We've beaten them before when they've both had great games. But I didn't like how they scored; it was too easy.
"I just thought we had way too many mental defensive breakdowns."
Crawford made just 2 of 13 shots off the bench, but more confounding was Griffin, who had five points at the half and seemed to miss routine shots.
"I thought Blake just missed some great shots early," Rivers said. "There's going to be night when you get great looks. He missed point-black looks at the rim, open shots. He's going to get those shots, and he'll make them nine times out of 10 most nights. You live with those."
It's a loss the Clippers will have to live with too. But at least they go home knowing they can take charge again by winning Games 3 and 4 at Staples.
"It's just like Golden State when you walked into the series," Rivers said. "I didn't see 4-0 by either team. I knew it was going to be a hard series. This is going to be a hard series too."
It already is.