While other dynamic duos around the NBA might get more attention, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook proved Wednesday night on national television why they are the deadliest teammates in the league. Durant scored 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, while Westbrook registered his 11th triple-double of the season with 25 points, 20 assists and 11 rebounds.
For Durant, it's his fourth straight 30-point, 10-rebound game. Over that stretch, the University of Texas product has averaged 31 points, 11.2 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game, leading the Thunder to back-to-back wins.
Westbrook's 25-20-11 night marks just the third time in the last 30 years that a player has recorded those type of numbers and first since Earvin "Magic" Johnson in 1988. The 20 assists is a career high for Westbrook, as he had 17 points and 12 assists at halftime; Westbrook is now tied with Golden State's Draymond Green for first in the NBA with 11 triple-doubles.
Thunder Finally Show Up
Entering their matchup with the Clippers, the Thunder were 2-8 versus the top five teams in the NBA. They had split their two previous games with Los Angeles, and were coming off a 103-98 loss in their last meeting just one week ago. The Thunder led by 22 points before the Clippers mounted a furious comeback, highlighted by outscoring the Thunder 35-13 in the final quarter.
There would be no such comeback in this one.
Oklahoma City led from start to finish, jumping out to a 22-11 lead halfway through the first quarter and never looking back. The Clippers managed to trail by just two going into halftime, and tied the game at 75 with less than five minutes to go in the third quarter. Durant would carry the Thunder the rest of the way, scoring 11 points in the quarter and leading an 18-8 run to end the third with Oklahoma City up, 93-83.
Durant hit two threes and Westbrook continued to do-it-all for the Thunder to push the lead to 109-90 with six minutes left in the game. J.J. Redick got hot for the Clippers down the stretch, but it would prove to be too little too late.
The Thunder improve to 44-20 and extend their lead over the Clippers to 1.5 games as the third seed in the west. Los Angeles drops to 41-22 as the fourth seed, including 20-11 on the road.
Battle At The Point
The marquee matchup of the night featured two MVP candidates this season in Chris Paul and Westbrook. With Stephen Curry running away with the league, these two have been having exceptional seasons and given the absence of Curry's greatness, could have legitimate shots at winning the highest individual award.
Paul scored 12 points on a rough shooting night. He hit just five of 15 attempts and was 1-6 from the three-point line. In addition, he also attempted just one free throw for the second straight game. Paul has attempted five free throws over his last three games.
While Paul struggled to score, he was very efficient at getting his teammates involved. Paul dished out 16 assists, his most since he recorded 19 assists against the Portland Trail Blazers on Jan. 6. He was also active on the defensive end, registering five steals.
Both the Thunder and the Clippers struggled in trying to contain the other on defense. Both defenses gave up over 50 percent shooting and only once did one team fail to score at least 25 points in a quarter. With defenses anchored by DeAndre Jordan and Serge Ibaka, fans expected more. But the effort was not there.
Both teams were able to score in transition several times purely due to the other failing to get back on defense. Paul and Westbrook gathered the majority of their combined 36 assists on three-on-one or three-on-two fast breaks. The Thunder finished with 15 points compared to nine points in transition recorded by the Clippers.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers was called for a technical less than six minutes into the game, but he admitted that his frustration was more on his team's lack of defensive effort. The Thunder took advantage early and often of the Clippers lack of help defense. Durant and Westbrook found easy points at the rim by blowing by their defenders and finding no one there to help pick them up.
The Thunder, who are a sub par 4-6 since the All-Star break, will host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday before traveling to San Antonio on Saturday. The Clippers welcome the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers this weekend before going on a five-game road trip.