Los Angeles lays egg in crucial Western Conference battle against OKC – Annenberg Media

LOS ANGELES — With All-Star weekend in the books, the push for the number one seed in the western conference continues for the Los Angeles Clippers.

LA’s first game out of the All-Star break was a matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder, one of the teams the Clippers are competing against in a close-fought race for western conference supremacy.

The last time these two teams matched up, it was Paul George who stole the show with 38 points and the Clippers won the game 128-117. The Thunder returned the favor this time around and in the final regular season meeting between these two teams, Oklahoma City claimed both the victory and the season series against the Clippers in a 129-107 home win.

In a game that featured former Thunder players Russell Westbrook, George and James Harden, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — who started his NBA career as a Clipper — was the best player on the court, pouring in 31 points on 12-19 shooting from the field. On a night where the Clippers’ leading scorer was Kawhi Leonard with 20 points, LA’s stars could not keep up with Oklahoma City offensively in the second half.

It was a back and forward first half between the two teams, as the Clippers entered the locker room down 61-59. However, Oklahoma City began to separate themselves from the Clippers in the third quarter. Late in that period, the Thunder secured a defensive stand on a Terrence Mann layup attempt and Oklahoma City pushed the ball down the court to convert that stop into a Josh Giddey three-pointer. From there, the Thunder increased their lead to 12 and  the Clippers found themselves trailing 91-79.

The Clippers’ deficit remained at 12 entering the fourth quarter and Oklahoma City only saw their lead grow to close out the game, ending with a 33-25 run to seal the victory.

The Thunder ended up out-shooting the Clippers from the perimeter, an area where Los Angeles has usually excelled all season. Oklahoma City now leads the league in three-point percentage at 39.5% and against the Clippers, the Thundershot 48.6% from three against the Clippers, making 17 out of 35 attempts. Being second in three point percentage currently, the Clippers did not have a bad three-point shooting night themselves, going 12-32 from distance, good for 37.5%.

If the Clippers are going to fulfill their championship-or-bust expectations this season, their stars will have to play much better than they did against the Thunder. Particularly, they are going to need more consistent performances from George and Westbrook. The pairshot a combined 7-25 from the floor and George’s shooting woes have been a theme recently. In the month of February, George has shot just 42.1% from the field and is averaging 19 points per game, well below his All-Star expectations. In January, George shot 49.3% from the field and averaged 23.4 points per game.

With the loss, the Clippers remain third in the Western Conference standings.  Oklahoma City’s young guns ran the Clippers off the floor and next game, the Clippers will stay on the road and take on a scrappy Memphis Grizzlies team with players who can get up and down the floor. If the Clippers don’t want to suffer a similar fate to the Milwaukee Bucks, who underestimated this severely depleted Grizzlies squad, they will need to be locked in and ready to go for Friday’s 5 p.m. tip off.

First appeared on www.uscannenbergmedia.com

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