OKC survives Crawford and Rivers tonight
By Suave Francisco
When you heard that the Los Angeles Clippers would sit key players like Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, and J.J. Reddick, you'd be pretty confident in a rather luxurious Thunder win now wouldn't you? Of course. But when Oklahoma City reverts back to their old ways of minimal to no defense, everything changes. This was a close game throughout, but the Thunder edged a 119-117 win in the second to last regular season home game of the year.
What made this game so difficult you ask? Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers combined for an unexplainable 64 points off 56.6 percent shooting. Crawford? Not surprised, but there's absolutely no reason why Doc Rivers' son should've torched our defense for 32 points. No reason at all. Not to mention, Jeff Green came back to Oklahoma City and added 19 points to that. I wish there was an explanation for this embarrassing display of defense, but there isn't. OKC just proved that this game meant nothing to them.
Despite the defensive showing, Oklahoma City won the game which means offensively this team played as well as expected. Russell Westbrook finished just two rebounds shy of yet another triple-double, plus he came in clutch at the end of the game with a couple of huge rebounds, a couple huge assists (mostly to Kevin Durant), and a few big shots. Four other players finished in double-figures as well. This team hitting 53 percent for the game definitely played a huge role in the win also.
Although Oklahoma City went 10 players deep tonight, Kyle Singler played a significant amount which has proven to be toxic for this team nine out of ten times. After playing a little over 16 minutes, Singler finished with six points (all in the first quarter) and three rebounds. Also, when he was in the game he primarily guarded Crawford which may have been Billy Donovan's biggest mistake. He may be a decent defender, but not against players that are as agile and athletic as a Jamal Crawford. Cameron Payne saw absolutely no time today once again, which hurt this team in the end if you ask me. He may not be the guy to score 15 or 20 points for you, but he's proven to be a pest on defense and that's what the team needed to stop, or, at least, slow down Crawford or Rivers on this day.
Oh well. They won, which all but solidifies the three-seed in the Western Conference and nails the Clippers down to the fourth-seed with just six games remaining.
As of late this Thunder team looks good. Wipe this game from your memory because it didn't mean much of anything and unfortunately, the players displayed that. Oklahoma City improves to (53-23) on the season with a four-game road trip starting in Houston up next. Expect Houston to come out firing Sunday afternoon because they have a lot to play for right now, being a half-game out of the playoffs behind the Utah Jazz. With the third seed in Oklahoma City's hand, it would be ideal for Donovan to rest his players, but considering the hatred between the two organizations, plus what Houston is playing for, it wouldn't be surprising for Oklahoma City to be the spoiler. Personally, I vote to keep Houston out of the playoffs.