Star power engage Clippers, Thunder

LOS ANGELES-The game atmosphere between the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder felt like a playoff game. When you have the type of megastars that the Clippers and Thunder have on their respective rosters, electricity collide with high-volume entertainment. The two teams did indeed put on a show for a sellout Staples Center crowd and a nationally-televised audience.

Even Drake and Floyd “Money” Mayweather had to come out and sit courtside for this matchup. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan came into the contest looking to get a certifiable win against an elite Western Conference opponent. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, the mainstays of the OKC Thunder, were looking for some sort of edge to let people they are still real title contenders.

Kevin Durant goes up for two of his 24 points in OKC’s 100-99 win against the Los Angeles Clippers. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/

That Durant guy showed he can still be the cold-blooded shooter he’s always been as evident by his 19-foot dagger with five seconds left in the game to give the Thunder a 100-99 road win. Westbrook, that other guy suing up in an Oklahoma City uniform, gave the Los Angeles crowd yest another taste of his mercurial skills by producing 33 points and seven assists as the Thunder rallied from an eight-point, fourth quarter deficit to collect their 19th win of the season.

The game boiled down to the playmakers. The Clippers’ playmakers made their share of plays to win the ballgame. The Thunder just made one more play than they did. As the teams teetered back and forth in the final period, trading one big shot after another, the Clippers dynamic duo of Griffin and Paul did what they could to try to pull Los Angeles through another nail-biting game.

Paul probably had a bigger game than his counterpart Westbrook, going for 32 points, dishing out 10 assists and pulling down 5 rebounds. The final six minutes of the game was played to near perfection as both the Clippers and Thunder, behind the play of their stars, made like a heavyweight boxing match, trading blows with the aplomb of a hummingbird taking sap out of a tree.

Blake Griffin goes over the top for a big play for the Los Angeles Clippers against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/
Blake Griffin goes over the top for a big play for the Los Angeles Clippers against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/

It was pretty special to watch. The Clippers had the energy of the Staples Center crowd behind them. The Thunder, using a gunslinger mentality, just strode right on in and snatched what appeared to be a Clippers’ victory. Griffin came through with a couple of jump shots and monster dunk that rocked Staples Center. A steal by Paul and converted layup with 10.9 seconds left on the clock, gave the Clippers their final lead of the game at 99-98.

But the game ain’t over until its over. With Durant and Westbrook on the other side of the court, it is safe to say that no lead is really safe with those two operating. Westbrook, who scored 11 of his 19 second-half points in the fourth quarter, let Durant finish the deal.   Due to the aggressive defensive play of the Clippers all night, it was a tough night to score points for Durant.

Durant made only 10 of 24 shots against the Clippers. But as always, when the Thunder count on their superstar to bail them out, he did. Durant’s pull-up, 19-footer with 5.8 seconds in the game reminded some folks why he is still prime-time. Durant closed out the Thunder’s victory with a block of a Paul shot with less than a second remaining in the contest.

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