After six games into the regular season, the Los Angeles Clippers are still figuring things out as a team. They were tested as a unit against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Monday’s 99-94 win at Staples Center.
Paul George scored 15 of his team-high 32 points in the fourth quarter and the Clippers outscored OKC 33-20 to win their second game on the season.
“That’s my job,” George said after the game. “Go out there and play hard. I saw an area my team needed me and a moment my team needed me and I just tried to step up for them. I was seeing how they were playing me all game. I was penetrating, getting down low and I was able to find people through it.
“As the game went on, I just started to notice that they were pulling in and making it a little tougher. I knew I could get a step up top, clear myself and get my hands free for the shot and took advantage of the one-on-one matchup.”
Former Clipper and rising star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, as well as Josh Giddey, energized the young Thunder with their play as OKC pushed the Clippers all game. The Clippers needed and got late-game heroics from George to seal the win.
“We hate to put ourselves in that position, but honestly that’s when we click and play our best is when we’re playing from behind,” George said. “We just never think we’re out of a game, it [was like that] last year and this year we have that same confidence.”
The Clippers play their next two games on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves before returning home for a six-game homestand beginning with a contest against the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday, Nov. 7. The Clippers’ second win of the season was a struggle throughout.
Early on in the first quarter, the Clippers got off sluggishly on offense. Missed open shots and not executing became the narrative for Tyronn Lue’s players. George himself finished the quarter scoreless after shooting 0 for 5 from the field.
Guard Reggie Jackson, who is normally a spark on offense for the Clippers, went 1 of 4 in his attempts from the field in the quarter. The Clippers’ offensive woes allowed OKC to gain the lead by the end of the quarter. Just how bad was it for the Clippers in that first quarter?
For the period, Los Angeles shot 22 percent from the field, connecting on just 6 of 27 field goal attempts. The Clippers’ numbers from three-point land were even worse. For the quarter, the Clippers made one of 12 3-point shots, good enough for eight percent.
Because OKC shot only 40 percent from the field in the first quarter, the Clippers were fortunate to trail just 23-14 by the time the period ended.
“We just found a way to win a game tonight,” Clippers forward Nicolas Batum said. “[The Thunder] did a very good job but we didn’t lose confidence.”
The Clippers’ tough shooting continued into the second quarter as well, but they picked up their scoring enough to put up 26 points in the period. At first, the Clippers seemed to be unable to find a shooting rhythm.
OKC’s reserves came into the game and were able to hold onto the lead. Opposite to them, the Clippers bench didn’t do a lot outside of Luke Kennard (14 points) and Terance Mann (10 points).
The key to the Clippers winning this ballgame would be up to the play of George. George finished the first half with just five points. He stepped up in the second half.
George scored 27 of his 32 points over the last two quarters. The second half told a much different story than the first. After being aggressive and making his first shot in the third quarter, George’s play seemed to elevate, but the story of the period was the hot shooting of Alexander.
Alexander went off, scoring 15 points in the third quarter. The Clippers didn’t have an answer for him. Whether it was Mann or Jackson guarding him, Alexander torched the Clippers, scoring at will. Alexander’s scoring surge helped the Thunder jump back in front as the period ended with OKC up, 74-66.
Lue made an adjustment by putting George on Alexander in the final period, trapping him when he had the ball and eventually slowing him down. Giddey, a rookie with OKC, would pick up the slack for the Thunder. Giddey scored eight of his 15 points in the last quarter. It wasn’t enough as the fourth period belonged to George.
“It’s a matter of how well you can weather the storm in those runs. We had our fair share, they had their fair share and it is something we are gonna learn as a young team,” said Giddey
Down the stretch, the Clippers made the plays. The Thunder were not able to match what Los Angeles was able to do.
“If we make shots, we’ll get up to speed because now there’s gonna be more driving lanes, more time to attack,” Lue said. “But if you’re not making shots, I wouldn’t guard us either. When we start making shots, I think a lot of things will change.”
November 1, 2021. Paul George (13) passes to the open man in the Los Angeles Clippers ‘ 99-94 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Photo redit: Melinda Meijer/News4usonline