Five takeaways from the Thunder's 90-88 loss at Clippers
The Thunder's 90-88 loss to the Clippers at Staples Center on Monday was the first meeting between the two teams since one of the most influential trades of the summer.
The Clippers played a tribute video Monday for the two players it sent to OKC in July: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari. Former Thunder All-Star Paul George greeted his former teammates and coaches before the first whistle.
Gallinari drained the game-tying 3-pointer with just under a minute left on the clock. George drained the go-ahead 3 about 30 seconds later.
Here are five takeaways from the game:
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Defending Paul George
From tip-off, OKC made it clear it wasn’t going to let George score easily. The Thunder began the game trying to trap George when he had the ball, a tactic OKC’s opponents had implemented against it last season when George wore Thunder blue.
When he drove to the basket, the OKC defense collapsed around him. On the perimeter, it sent out a second man to double team George. The Clippers responded by playing George off ball for a few possessions.
OKC varied how it guarded George throughout the game, but George’s former teammate Terrance Ferguson was the primary defender. George finished the game with 18 points, scoring fewer than 30 points for the first time in his Clippers tenure. Ferguson recorded two steals and three defensive rebounds.
Slow start from downtown
With about six minutes left in the first half, Gilgeous-Alexander drained his first 3-point shot of the night to end OKC’s scoring drought from beyond the arc. The Thunder improved to a paltry 1-of-9 from 3-point range. The Clippers weren’t doing much better, with just two makes on 14 shots from downtown.
Late in the third quarter, former Thunder forward Patrick Patterson drained a 3-pointer to give the Clippers a lead. L.A.’s JaMychal Green followed that up with a 3-pointer of his own.
Both teams finished the night shooting worse than 28 percent from 3.
Chris Paul takes over
By halftime, Paul led the Thunder with 13 points. He added a much-needed 3-pointer to his total seconds after Gilgeous-Alexander headed to the bench with four fouls about five minutes into the third quarter.
He came up clutch again down the stretch. With 30 seconds on the clock and the game tied, Thunder point guard Chris Paul drew a foul as he dribbled down the court. He went to the line to put OKC ahead by two points.
He was the only Thunder player to score 15 or more points Monday, leading the team with 20. It was his second consecutive game scoring over 20 points.
Blow the whistle
The Thunder took a 47-42 lead at halftime, in part because of free throw shooting. Paul drew fouls on two rip moves. The Thunder took 16 trips to the line in the first half, while the Clippers took only five foul shots.
The third quarter brought a flurry of whistles. The Thunder’s Paul, Gallinari and Gilgeous-Alexander were all called for traveling in barely over a minute of game time. Both teams were in the bonus before the six-minute mark.
OKC shot 89 percent from the free throw line, compared to the Clippers' 71.4 percent.
Thunder guard Hamidou Diallo missed his second straight game with a left knee sprain. Abdel Nader again filled in for the second unit wing, recording eight points on 3-of-5 shooting Monday. Deonte Burton also played two minutes and 19 seconds.
For the Clippers, Kawhi Leonard (left knee contusion) missed a third straight game. He an George have yet to play in a game together. George made his Clippers debut Thursday, returning from a pair of offseason shoulder surgeries.