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Thunder fall to Clippers 108-100 in hard fought contest

The Oklahoma City Thunder lost their second game of their two-series set with the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday 108-100. For the Thunder, their 6-9 record puts them in their worst win percentage (.400) since December 31st when they were 1-3 (.33). The Clippers reclaimed their prized number one spot in the conference, elevating themselves to 13-4 record and pushing their winning streak to seven.

The Clippers posted five players in double-digits on Sunday, with Kawhi Leonard leading the pack. Leonard strung together 34 points (14-24 FG), 9 rebounds, and 8 assists on the game while providing a big boost outside with four triples. Serge Ibaka picked up where he left off inside, racking up 17 points almost entirely in the paint. Paul George pieced together 11 points on the game, but the Thunder’s intense defense caused him to fire an abysmal 4-13 from the floor on 2-8 from outside.

In order to bounce back from George’s off-game, the Clippers needed some ammunition off the bench. Reggie Jackson and Ivica Zubac, did just that dropping 14 and 10 points respectively. Jackson fended off the Thunder when the game was in jeopardy scoring 8 points in two minutes, while Zubac feasted on the glass for 11 rebounds.

The Thunder had four double-digit scorers in the contest, with two breaking the 20 point mark. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder in points with 23 (8-16 FG), while snagging 6 boards, and finding players open for 7 assists. SGA did not miss a beat in the game as his driving ability plagued the Clippers, allowing him to get players open off pick-and-pops and even kicking it out on drives. George Hill logged a season-high 22 points (9-12 FG) while keeping active on defense with 2 steals of his own. Lu Dort couldn’t find his mark offensively, shooting a lowly 20% off 2-10 shooting, and for the first time of the season, being empty on threes after missing all six of his attempts. Isaiah Roby and Hamidou Diallo filled in for Dort with 10 and 14 points being dropped by them. Roby’s early involvement inside pushed him to the double-digit mark early into the second half on 5-10 for the game, while Diallo’s 14 points (6-9 FG) were found off isolations to the basket.

The Clippers were sizzling hot yet again in the opening stages of the game, jumping out to a 16-9 advantage through one quarter of play. Their early game excellence can be summed up to finding early rhythm everywhere on the floor. Seven of the Clippers first twelve shots came from beyond the arch (hitting two) while the other five shots inside all converted. Oklahoma City’s style of play ran through SGA-Roby high-ball screen actions, which had solid moments in the opening stages, but the longevity with the play simply was not there. When the Thunder expanded their option to the three, no one was able to convert, going an empty 0-9 from deep in the first period.

When the first quarter was all said and done the Clippers mounted a 36-19 lead. Their wondrous 56 percent in the quarter (15-26) along with nailing 4 triples put them on the cusp of blowing this game open with a strong second quarter. Despite mini-runs the Clippers never actually got the Thunder out of the competition. In fact, Oklahoma City outscored the Clippers 81-72 through quarters 2-4.

The Thunder’s drive to remain in this game is something you can only look proud upon. Oklahoma City went from shooting 8-26 (32%) in the first and 0-9 (0%) from three to shooting 34-69 (49%) and 7-26 (27%) from downtown in quarters 2-4. The Thunder did not have to worry about shooting poorly from outside throughout the night, as they had plenty of options throughout the night inside. The SGA-Roby high-ball screen was prevalent in the opening stages of both halves, but once the Clippers adjusted the team found other methods of scoring. Hamidou Diallo took right to the defense every shot he was given in the ladder half, scoring eight point on 4-5 from the field. Once Diallo lost his spark, George Hill entered the conversation, and shifted the tides of the game. Hill led the Thunder in second half points with 17 points (7-9 FG) and oozed a glaring bit of hope into the young core of players. Hill’s combination of layups, runners, and catch-and-shoot three’s wore off on guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who dropped 15 second half (6-10 FG) points who followed suit on showcasing a variety of scoring methods. Defensively, our entire core manned-up to stop the Clippers after falling behind early, holding their opponents to 39% on 25=56 shooting after the first quarter.

Major issues that emerged for the Thunder on Friday were erased in Sunday’s matchup. After dropping just 42 points inside in their last game, the Thunder tied their season-high of 66 points in the paint. The root cause of why the Thunder were able to score so often inside not only have from excellent penetrations, but also crashing the glass. After being outrebounded 55-36 in the first meeting, Oklahoma City fired back winning the rebound category 51-46. Darius Bazely and Isaiah Roby finished with 11 and 10 rebounds respectively, as opposed to the 7 they combined for on Friday. These 10 rebounds not only gave Roby his first ever double-double, but in doing this, Serge Ibaka was held to a miniscule 6 boards. The free throw line proved to cause problems for OKC in their previous meeting when the Clippers shot 25 attempts to their 13, but it was a non-factor on Sunday. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George accumulated 16 free throws in the last game but only scraped together 3 in this one, leading to LA only posting 16 free throws to OKC’s 14.

Oklahoma City will hit the road tonight to cap off their back-to-back Monday night vs. the Portland Trail Blazers (8-6.)

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