By Randy Renner
The brand new Most Valuable Player of the NBA had a pretty simple and straight forward explanation for how he and his Thunder teammates handled the L.A. Clippers Wednesday night.
"Guys were pissed off," Kevin Durant said, "and we wanted to respond."
The Thunder got off to a good start, withstood a Clipper rally and had a huge third quarter to breeze to a 112-101 win. They led by as many as 20 points.
Durant almost had a triple double and his running mate, Russell Westbrook, did. Durant finished with 32 points to lead all scorers, 12 rebounds and nine assists. Westbrook had his third triple-double of these playoffs with 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
"We have some very prideful guys," said Thunder head coach Scott Brooks. "We came out with a much better effort tonight than on Monday. It was a very good defensive game."
The Thunder weren't happy with their lack of effort and energy on defense in Monday's loss in Game 1 of their Western Conference Semi-Final series with the Clippers and they were bound and determined to change things around on Wednesday.
"I liked our focus and intensity tonight," Durant said.
On Monday night after being clobbered in Game 1, Brooks said his team needed to make the Clippers "feel them on defense." He said the same thing again after Tuesday's practice and his players must have been listening.
"They did what Scotty said they'd do, they made us feel them on defense," said Clippers head coach Doc Rivers. "They were the tougher team tonight. We weren't there physically and maybe not mentally either. We just didn't have it tonight, or maybe they (the Thunder) just took it."
If the Thunder 'took it' as Doc said, it happened in the third quarter. OKC had a five point lead coming out of halftime and the Thunder stepped on the gas right away and then stepped on the necks of the Clippers.
Defensive whiz Thabo Sefolosha, who was back in the starting lineup, played lockdown defense on J.J. Redick, who had torched the Thunder for 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting in the first half.
In that third quarter though, with Sefolosha draped on him like blanket, Redick was able to get off just two shots. He made one of them and those two points were the only ones he scored in the frame. In fact, they were the only points he scored in the second half.
The Thunder held Los Angeles to 21 points while scoring 33 themselves, turning a five point lead into a 17 point advantage and tipping the Clippers back on their heels.
Clippers sixth man Jamal Crawford burned the Thunder for 17 points in Game 1 had just seven on 2-for-13 shooting Wednesday night.
The Thunder dominated in the paint, hauling in 52 rebounds to the Clippers 36 and outscoring them 48 to 36 inside.
That much maligned perimeter defense was much better holding the Clippers to a much more reasonable 33.3 percent from beyond the arc, almost 20 percentage points lower than Monday.
The Clippers came into the game having scored at least 30 points in six of their last seven quarters but they didn't make it above 28 Wednesday night.
So after being blown out at home in Game 1, the Thunder sent a resounding message back to the Clippers in Game 2.
It's a best-of-five series now and for the Thunder to finish on top they will have to do to the Clippers in Los Angeles what the Clippers did to the Thunder in Oklahoma City...win a game on the road.
The first opportunity to get that done comes Friday night at Staples Center.