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Thunder lose big to red hot Clippers

January 16, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) plays for the ball against Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The odds were stacked against the Oklahoma City Thunder (25-18) coming into Monday night’s showdown with the Los Angeles Clippers (28-14).

The Thunder were on the second night of a back-to-back following their 120-116 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night. Oklahoma City was also without their behemoth bruiser down low in Steven Adams, who missed Monday’s game because of a head injury he suffered against the Kings.

Los Angeles was riding a hot hand coming into the game, having won six consecutive games, and they continued their winnings way defeating Oklahoma City handedly, 120-98. The Clippers were hot right out of the gate, shooting 55 percent from the field, including 5-0f-9 from the three point line in the first quarter.

Adams’ absence was felt right from the onset, as Deandre Jordan finished the first quarter with nine points and eight rebounds. Oklahoma City struggled to defend the Clippers big men all night, showing a direct correlation between their interior defense and the Big Kiwi.

The Clippers outscored the Thunder in the paint 64-32 on Monday night, which was an anomaly considering Oklahoma City is number one in the league averaging 51 points per game in the paint. Deandre Jordan finished with 19 points and 15 boards, while Mauresse Speights tallied 23 points along with 10 rebounds on 8-0f-15 shooting from the field.

The triple-double king Russell Westbrook, along with the rest of the Thunder’s entire offensive unit, struggled to get in a rhythm Monday night, and finished the game shooting a measly 42.4 percent from the field, including 33.3 percent from three-point land.

In comparison, Los Angeles shot the long ball to a respectable clip of 42.9 percent, including five three pointers from J.J. Reddick, their sharp-shooting two guard. Reddick finished with 20 points on the night, shooting 7-of-15 from the field, and effectively ran Andre Roberson off a multitude of screens all night long.

The Thunder were given a glimpse of hope to open the second half when they learned that Chris Paul would not return to the game due to a thumb injury. However, that hope didn’t last long as Raymond Felton came in to relieve Paul and proceeded to put on a clinic against the Thunder’s defense. Felton finished the game with 15 points on 7-0f-7 shooting, six assists, and three rebounds.

More importantly, Felton orchestrated the offense throughout the third quarter, finishing with eight points and four assists to help shut the door on a comeback opportunity for Oklahoma City.

One of the lone bright spots offensively for Oklahoma City tonight was Joffrey Lauvergne’s performance off the bench. Lauvergne finished the game with a near double-double at 13 points and nine rebounds, taking advantage of his season high for playing time at 30 minutes. Jerami Grant also produced nicely for the Thunder, finishing with nine points on 3-of-3 shooting from downtown, along with eight rebounds.

Oklahoma City will look to bounce back from this loss Wednesday night when they face the Golden State Warriors at Oracle arena. Westbrook vs Durant 2.0 should be a good one.

KEYS TO THE GAME

BENCH  D

Oklahoma City’s bench was outscored 53-44 Monday night, and probably would’ve gotten a F had it not been for Joffrey Lauvergne. Lauvergne and Enes Kanter were the only two in double figures, and Cameron Payne and Alex Abrines combined for only 12 points. On a night where the Thunder were shorthanded without Adams and needed a boost, the bench wasn’t there for the most part.

THUNDER MONEY BALL  F

The Thunder finished the night 10-for-30 from three, which isn’t terrible. However, they finished the first half 4-of-18 from three (22.1 percent). If not for some garbage time threes, their overall percentage likely would’ve been much worse.

PLAY YOUR OWN SPEED  F

The Thunder never were able to push the ball like they wanted to, as both teams finished with 13 fast break points. Whether that had something to do with being on the second night of a back-to-back, I’m not sure. However the real travesty lies in the fact that the Clippers were still able to allocate 120 points on the night, while only acquiring 13 of those points on the fast break.

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