Thunder lead all the way vs. Clippers to stay perfect at home
Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder put on one of their best shooting displays of the season Thursday night — and their fans seem to be following the team's cue.
Durant scored 28 points and the Thunder made 51.9 percent in beating the Los Angeles Clippers 105-91. But that pales in comparison to what Oklahoma City fans are shooting this week during a second-quarter promotion at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
For the second straight game, and the fifth time during the 2013 calendar year, a Thunder fan hit a half-court heave to win $20,000 in a contest sponsored by MidFirst Bank.
Brad Brucker, a 33-year-old business teacher at Piedmont High School, made the money shot two days after another fan, Cameron Rodriguez, hit from midcourt in a win over Denver.
As Brucker left the floor, he was greeted and congratulated by recording stars Beyonce and Jay-Z, who watched from courtside seats next to Durant's family.
Brucker said the experience ''didn't feel real.''
Durant joked after the game that ''we might go broke after these guys, they're hitting every half-court shot.'' But he added it was fun watching fans hit those shots.
Durant also enjoyed watching the Thunder post their second-best shooting outing of the season and lead all the way against Los Angeles in a matchup of Western Conference powers.
Oklahoma City has won its first five home games of the season for the first time since 2004-05, when the franchise was in Seattle.
Durant also had eight assists. Serge Ibaka added 17 points and three blocked shots.
''I thought that was probably as well as we can execute a game plan and execute on both ends of the floor, on offense and defense in the second half,'' Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. ''Seventeen assists and five turnovers in the second half, and we made them miss a lot of shots. I thought we played good throughout the game, but really did a great job in the second half.''
The Clippers beat the Thunder 111-103 in Los Angeles on Nov. 8. But they missed their first seven shots in the rematch, fell into a quick 10-point hole and never dug themselves out of it.
Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers noticed early that something was amiss.
''In the first quarter, you could see we didn't have it offensively,'' Rivers said. ''Everybody was kind of missing shots. We didn't have any rhythm, no speed. When we don't have any pace by anybody, you know that's not a good sign. We didn't tonight.''
There were a couple of bright spots for the Clippers. In his return to his hometown, Blake Griffin scored 27 points on 12-for-23 shooting and also had 10 rebounds. He's had a 20-10 double in 10 of the last 12 games, and has posted an NBA-high 100 such games since the start of the 2010-11 season.
The Clippers' Chris Paul also extended his NBA-record streak while finishing with 17 points and 12 assists. He has opened the season with 13 straight games in which he's had at least 10 points and 10 assists. Magic Johnson held the previous record of 11 such games to open the 1990-91 season.
''We just couldn't get it going, honestly,'' Rivers said. ''I thought our offense — our defense let us down by the end — but at halftime, I thought it was still more of our offense. The way we've played the last couple of games, with the ball movement and all that — that was all gone tonight.''
Los Angeles pulled within 81-75 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, but Nick Collison's three-point play and a jumper by Jeremy Lamb put the Thunder up by 11.
Baskets by Los Angeles' Ryan Hollins and Jamal Crawford made it a seven-point game, but Oklahoma City scored the next seven points and took its biggest lead of the game to that point at 93-79 on a free throw by Lamb with 7:11 left.
Los Angeles didn't cut the margin below double digits the rest of the game.
Crawford scored 18 points for the Clippers, who hurt themselves at the free-throw line, finishing 7 of 15. Russell Westbrook scored 12 and Lamb added 11 for the Thunder.
Oklahoma City took advantage of the Clippers' early shooting woes to take a 13-3 lead just over five minutes into the game. Los Angeles struggled at times against the Thunder's interior defense, as Ibaka and rookie Steven Adams each blocked a pair of shots in the first-half.
Oklahoma's City led by 13 before taking a 51-43 edge at halftime.
Griffin, limited to six points in the first half, scored seven straight baskets for the Clippers during the third quarter and his 20-foot jumper pulled Los Angeles within 68-62. The Thunder rebuilt its lead with a basket from Kendrick Perkins, a three-point play from Durant and a 17-foot jumper by Ibaka.
NOTES: Clippers F Matt Barnes missed his second straight game with a left eye injury sustained when he caught an inadvertent elbow from Memphis' Zach Randolph on Sunday. Barnes and Ibaka were ejected after a second-quarter altercation when the Clippers and Thunder played on Nov. 13. . . . Rivers had high praise for the Thunder's Adams, whom Oklahoma City drafted in the first round this past summer. `'He's going to be good,'' Rivers said of the 7-footer from New Zealand. Rivers watched in a pre-draft workout when Rivers still was coaching the Boston Celtics. `'He has great hands and can shoot the ball pretty well. He's big. He has size and what is he, 20?'' . . . Paul played his first two NBA seasons in Oklahoma City with the team then known as the New Orleans Hornets and says he always enjoys coming back. ''Always,'' he said. ''I won rookie of the year here. My first two years this was my first experience in the NBA. I'll always have a love for OKC.''