Thunder Rally Over Depleted Clippers In 119-117 Shootout
It wasn’t Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook who hit the game wining shot for the Oklahoma City Thunder against the Los Angeles Clippers Thursday night. The two stars combined for 57 points in the victory, but it was center Steven Adams who tipped in a missed Westbrook shot with 26.9 seconds left to protect the Thunder from an embarrassing loss to a Clippers team resting three starters.
Thunder Beat Clippers 119-117 On Adams’ Tip In With 26 Seconds Left
“Just got lucky, mate,” Adams told reporters after the game. “I made some awful plays beforehand, a couple of them. I was just happy to kind of make at least one good play in a big moment.”
Adams’ rebound was the biggest one of the night for Oklahoma City, who found themselves trailing 115-110 with 4:20 left despite finishing the game with a 46-26 advantage on the glass.
The Thunder shook off a shaking shooting performance from Durant, who still managed 31 points (his 60th straight with 20 points), but shot just 1-8 on 3 pointers (10-22 overall).
Despite Westbrook’s ill advised shot in the final minute, he made several clutch plays down the stretch: he hit a deep three to tie the game at 115 with 2:25 left, a steal after Clippers’ guard/forward Wesley Johnson grabbed a rebound off a Durant missed three (which led to the missed shot that Adams tipped in), and then Westbrook soared for a game clinching rebound with just two seconds remaining following an Austin Rivers‘ missed layup. The point guard finished with 26 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds, and five steals, falling just short of his 17th triple-double.
The eight year veteran from UCLA told ESPN’s Royce Young, “I just try to make the plays that help us win games, man. I’m the type of guy that would try to make something happen. Sometimes I gamble, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But I’m the guy that is going to put my body on the line for my team and try to find a way to help us win.”
The Clippers were able to hang with the Thunder without four of their usual starters, coach Doc Rivers thought it would be best to rest his key contributors against OKC since there is a very slim chance of LA catching the Thunder for the third seed. So without Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick, and Blake Griffin (not resting, but serving the final game of a team imposed four game suspension for punching a team assistant), it was up to Rivers and Jamal Crawford to take the helm.
The two guards came out of the gate red hot, combining for 40 points in the first half while shooting a perfect 8-8 from deep. Crawford hit three free throws with 1 second left before halftime after being fouled by Andre Roberson, giving the Clippers a 69-65 halftime lead. Los Angeles shot 63.2% in the first two quarters compared to OKC’s 58.1%.
Rivers reached a career high with 32 points, shooting a red hot 7-9 on threes. Crawford matched Rivers’ 32 and shot 5-8 on his attempts from downtown. The Clippers shot 16-29 on their three point attempts for the game.
With the victory Oklahoma City (53-23) extended their lead over the Clippers in the race for the third seed in the West to 5.5 games. Their next game will be against former teammate James Harden and the Rockets (37-39) when the team travels to Houston on April 3 with the tip at 3:30 p.m. EST.
The Clippers (47-28) are also off until April 3, when they host the Washington Wizards (36-39). Coach Rivers doesn’t yet know if he’ll rest players in the team’s remaining games, with LA already clinching a playoff spot and holding a 6 game lead over Memphis (41-34) for the fourth seed.
“I don’t know how much guys need rest or not,” Rivers said. “I think they do. I know Chris, for sure, and J.J. DJ (Jordan) is young, but he’s given us so many minutes. I just thought if we were going to do it, it was a good time. We have two more back-to-backs, so we may do it a couple more times. I’m not sure. I’ll just go by what I see.”