LOS ANGELES, CA-There’s not too many times that a player will come off the bench and upstage two superstars on the other team. Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams managed to do just that in a playoff-life theater basketball game played at Staples Center against Russell Westbrook, Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Outshining these two NBA stars is no easy task.
With both George and Westbrook in foul trouble most of the game and eventually fouling out late in the fourth quarter, this contest belonged in the hot-shooting hands of Williams. Williams scored 17 of his game-high 40 points in the fourth period to guide the Clippers to a 118-110 win against the Thunder as the playoff race in the Western Conference gets a little bit tighter.
“We just got on the side of [Lou Williams] a few times,” OKC coach Billy Donovan said. “We opened up and we gave straight line-drives, but we’ve got to contain the ball and guard the ball. Those guys are hard covers, [Lou Williams] and [Danilo] Gallinari, but we’ve got to do a better job of containing the ball.”
Williams would save his best for last, scoring nine of his 17-fourth quarter points in the last 2: 17 of the period to ice the game for the Clippers.
“[Lou Williams] is a closer,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “He and [Danilo Gallinari], both of those guys have the ability to make shots. Gal set the tone to start the game. He was just so aggressive early on. Down the stretch we really struggled. We couldn’t get the ball in the basket and missed free throws. And then Lou and Gal [played well in the fourth]. The most interesting statistic on [the box score] is, Gal had 34 points, and Lou scored 40 points, but Patrick Beverley had zero points and he had a plus 22. I thought he was the biggest impact on the game. He guarded Paul George as well as you can guard him. He had seven offensive rebounds. He just did so many things for us and it allows us to win games.”
This win for the Clippers was big on many fronts. For one, it ties the season series against the Thunder at 2-2. Secondly, the Clippers, winners of their last four games, are now seeded No. 7 in the Western Conference. OKC is now in the No. 4 position. With no Alpha superstar, the Clippers continue to roll and win games with an unselfish roster. While Williams was the star of the show against OKC, there were contributors all over the place that had their hand in the win as well.
Forward Danilo Gallinari quietly backed Williams’ super performance with a solid outing, scoring 34 points in the victory. Then there was the defensive harassment play of Patrick Beverly, who hounded George all night. Playing in-your-face defense with relentless energy, Beverly managed to hold George to 15 points in 27 minutes of action. The cherry on top for Beverly was when he lured George into fouling out of the game late in the fourth period.
“We’re a team, and there are no egos on this team,” Beverly said after the game. “Our main scorers are [Danilo] Gallinari and two people that come off the bench. Everyone takes their role very seriously. Everyone makes the extra pass. We all enjoy everyone else’s success, it’s not about any individual on this team and if it is we cut that out real fast. We come out here and grind it out. We might not have pretty wins, but at the end of the day we get wins, and that’s all it is all about.”
At one point in the third quarter, the Clippers threatened to run away with the game, but with both Westbrook and George on the bench because of foul problems, OKC’s bench came on and gave the Thunder an offensive lift. But in the end, OKC couldn’t get its offensive flow going with its two stars in and out of the lineup because of their foul situations. Because of that Westbrook (32 points) and George were forced to sit and watch the end of the game.
“We just didn’t play 48 minutes again. If we don’t do that, we’re not going to win,” Westbrook said.