OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla — The Oklahoma City Thunder (2-4) needed every halftime adjustment. The Thunder struggled to defend without fouling — sending the LA Clippers (4-3) to the line 24 times — and continued making poor decisions on the offensive end.
Then the third quarter happened.
After trailing 67-54 at the half, the Thunder stormed back to the tune of a 39-10 run. Nothing was out of the ordinary. Energetic defense led to turnovers. Turnovers led easy buckets. Easy buckets led the Clippers going cold. It was exactly how Oklahoma City want to play and should play. Ultimatley leading to the 128-110 victory.
I don’t think it’s sustainable to hold teams to 10 points a quarter,” Billy Donovan said after the game. “But that’s what it takes. Certainly the third quarter helped us to get back into the game.”
The 29-point point difference in the third quarter was the largest point differential in a quarter for the Thunder in team history.
“I thought we locked up,” Paul George (32 points) said in the locker room. “We were a little sloppy in the first half, especially on the pick-and-roll action. But we tightened everything up.”
Of course, the Thunder dug themselves a hole in the first half. In addition to the fouling, Oklahoma City’s offense was in disarray. If not for Russell Westbrook getting to the rim, who finished with 32 points on 13-of-25 shooting, the Thunder would have been run out of the building.
“I thought Russell kept us afloat in the second half,” Donovan said. “He was getting to the rim while we weren’t hitting shots as a team.”
The Thunder only trailed 33-25 going into the second quarter. The bench, led by Hamidou Diallo’s energy, went on a 13-5 run to cut the deficit to two. That’s when the fouling became a problem. Oklahoma City would send LA to the line 10 times the rest of the quarter.
If the Thunder are going to continue their trend of being one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the league, this game — and the first three quarters of the Phoenix game on Sunday — should be the blueprint. Hyper energetic, great defense and playing fast in transition to get easy buckets.
But just like Phoenix on Sunday, Oklahoma City let their foot off the gas. The defense allowed 33 points in the fourth quarter.
“That fourth quarter got slowed because of the fouls,” Donovan said of the fourth quarter. “I thought part of the problem with the fouling was with them driving at us at angles, we hit them becuase we were late moving on defense.”
There was also another chapter in the ongoing Westbrook vs Patrick Beverley blood feud. Midway through the fourth quarter, Beverley dove for a loose ball that Westbrook had just taken possession of, and undercut Westbrook right in the knee. An all too familiar sight.
Right after there was a timeout. Players began to disperse but Westbrook stayed and hovered around the Clippers’ bench. As he walked away, a small scrum of players bumped chests near the scorer’s table. Players were separated and ultimately Westbrook and Beverley were giving double-technicals, with Beverley receiving a flagrant-one for the dive at Westbrook’s knee.
“I have no comment on what happened,” Westbrook said afterwards.
The Thunder now set their sight’s on a road back-to-back against the Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards, Thursday and Friday night.