Thunder Dodged Bullets In Game 2

By Randy Renner

Right after Game 1, a Clipper blowout of the Thunder, head coach Scott Brooks and his players all said they had to play better defense, more aggressive, close out on shooters to curtail open looks.

The pure statistical results looked good. The Clippers hit just 33.3 percent of their threes in Game 2 after splashing 51.7 percent in Game 1. And they shot 44.6 percent overall in Game 2 compared to 54.9 percent in Game 1.

Individually Chris Paul was 12-for-14 in Game 1 and 8-for-9 on threes and Jamal Crawford was 6-for-11 overall in Game 1 and 3-for -6 from deep while in Game 2 he was just 2-for-13 overall and 1-for-7 on threes.

Blake Griffin shoots over Serge Ibaka in the Thunder-Clippers playoff series. Photo By Torrey Purvey for InsideThunder.com

Blake Griffin shoots over Serge Ibaka in the Thunder-Clippers playoff series. Photo By Torrey Purvey for InsideThunder.com

So great job Thunder defense right?

Well, maybe not as good as first thought. No question the Thunder came out with more effort and played with more aggression. They forced more turnovers and created more deflections, disrupting the Clipper offense at various times.

But as far as closing out on shooters and not giving so many open looks it was not exactly mission accomplished for the Thunder it was more like shots not falling for the Clippers.

Something the Thunder saw happen to them in Game 1.

According to player tracking data from SportVU in Game 1 an embarrassing 50 of the Clippers 54 jumpers were uncontested. That's 93 percent! 93 percent of their jumpers were open looks in Game 1. In Game 2 the Thunder had cut that way down but the percentage was still very high (74 percent open looks). 43 of LAC's 58 jumpers were uncontested.

The difference in Game 2 was that many of those shots clanged off the rim instead of swishing the nets.

Crawford had seven uncontested shots and just hit one. Blake Griffin had eight open looks and hit three, Jared Dudley had four and hit none. That's 19 uncontested shots and just four makes (21.1 percent) for those three players.

So the Thunder still have some room for improvement when it comes to defending those Clipper jump shots.

A couple of other fascinating items revealed by the SportVU data.

  • Serge Ibaka had a tremendous game. When the Clippers attacked him at the rim they made just 28.6 percent of their shots. Meanwhile, Serge was contested on six of his 10 shots and made four them (66.7 percent).
  • Russell Westbrook had a defender in his grill on 17 of the 22 shots he took and he made 11 of those contested looks (64.7 percent). 
  • Remember when CP3 said it seemed like Russ had more energy than anyone else in the game? That it seemed like he was everywhere? Well it turns out Westbrook really was all over the floor. According to SportVU Russ traveled 2.7 miles while running around on the floor, a full half mile further than any Clipper player.
  • Westbrook has also been criticized for letting the ball stick when he's running the point instead of passing it around like a "true" point guard, say Chris Paul for instance. In Game 2 Russ actually made more passes (64) than CP3 did (62).
  • Kevin Durant had 14 chances to grab a rebound in Game 2 and got 12. Westbrook had 11 opportunities and made good on 10 of them. KD and Russ combined to grab rebounds 88 percent of the time they had chances to do so.