The Oklahoma City Thunder weren't going to let another chance against the Los Angeles Clippers slip away. Exactly one week after blowing a double-digit lead to LA in the fourth quarter of a brutal loss, the Thunder rebounded by running away with a 120-108 victory on Wednesday.
This was a victory that OKC needed. The Thunder have struggled to put away great teams lately, something that's worrisome for a team with championship aspirations. Last Wednesday, the Thunder led the Clippers by 17 after three quarters, only to allow Los Angeles to go on a 26-5 run to finish off a 103-98 comeback win. It was an ugly effort for the Thunder, who looked lost offensively in crunch time despite their array of offensive weapons.
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant would not let those problems persist this time around. Westbrook recorded his latest triple-double with 25 points, 20 assists and 11 rebounds, becoming the third NBA player in the past 30 years to go 25-20-10. Durant put up 30 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists as OKC seemed to overcome its recent late-game struggles.
Despite having two of the best players in the world, the Thunder have been unable to find a consistent strategy to execute late in games. A star-centric approach has been part of the issue, as the team has too often been content to let Westbrook or Durant try to break down the defense individually. Those problems have been exposed against good teams like the Clippers, Cavaliers and Warriors recently, which has led to scrutiny for a team that's trying to win before Durant gets the chance to hit free agency this summer.
The Thunder showed some signs of possible adjustments in holding off the Clippers on Wednesday. While the offense still regularly ran through the two stars, Durant and Westbrook were often facilitating rather than being forced into isolation sets. Several of OKC's final baskets were from role players, assisted by the big names. It's only one game, and the team was working with a double-digit lead at home, but this was an encouraging development after the recent missteps.
Like we saw in the fourth quarter of their last game, the Clippers started hinting at a possible run midway through the fourth quarter Wednesday. J.J. Redick hit a trio of three-pointers and it seemed like LA was starting to build some rhythm. OKC responded this time, however, by clamping down defensively and getting some buckets on the other end. It was a stark contrast from the way the team folded at the Staples Center last week.
That's what the Thunder needed to show Wednesday after some letdowns lately. Westbrook and Durant remain two of the most devastating basketball players on the planet, so this team should be in the mix. Beating a Clippers team without Blake Griffin probably isn't a sign that OKC is ready to take on the likes of Golden State or San Antonio, but it helps to turn around a trend that was creating more questions than answers of late.
2 other things we learned
Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday can't carry Pelicans
Apparently Anthony Davis should've scored 59 points again. The big man went off for an amazing 40 points and 13 rebounds, not to mention got another 38 points in help from Jrue Holiday, but it wasn't enough in the Pelicans' 122-113 loss to the Hornets on Wednesday night.
Davis has been amazing of late, showing signs of the MVP-like performance many expected of him prior to the season. He was remarkably consistent against Charlotte, scoring between nine and 11 points in each period. Holiday, meanwhile, exploded for 18 points in the third period as part of his best scoring game of the season.
The rest of the team did not step up, however. Ryan Anderson missed all eight of his shot attempts and reserve guard Orlando Johnson was just 2-of-7 from the field. Other than Davis, Holiday and Toney Douglas, the Pelicans scored just 19 points on 7-of-22 shooting.
The Hornets had a much more balanced night. Kemba Walker led the way with 35 points on 9-of-18 shooting and six other players scored in double figures. Charlotte shot 15-of-35 (43 percent) from three-point range and committed just five turnovers. That's how you overcome a team that got 94 points from three players.
Grizzlies' injuries catch up to them
Memphis has kept battling injuries and kept staying competitive, but it was bound to catch up with the team eventually. After pulling off an impressive upset of the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Monday, the Grizzlies couldn't keep it up in a 116-96 loss to the Celtics.
Playing with just nine players against Boston, which was actually an upgrade from the eight who suited up against the Cavs, the Grizzlies were once again undermanned Wednesday. They couldn't even get through the game with that group, either. Point guard Mario Chalmers left in the third quarter with a right leg injury. That period was when the game got out of hand as Boston outscored Memphis, 31-12. The Grizzlies' bench looked desolate:
things are lonely on the grizzlies bench :( pic.twitter.com/MO5Kh2pVVL— Friendly Bounce (@FriendlyBounce) March 10, 2016
Isaiah Thomas scored 16 of his 22 points in that dominant quarter to lead the win. The Celtics have now won 14 games in a row at home, which makes the Grizzlies' loss not look so bad. Vince Carter and Jeff Green scored 17 apiece for Memphis, but when those are your best scoring options, it's not going to be easy to win.
Play of the night
For any other player, this is an epic highlight. For Steph, it almost feels run of the mill. I don't know if that makes the shot more or less exciting, but in the end, it's amazing either way.