The Thunder got off to a blistering start Wednesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. And thanks to a strong night from Kevin Durant, they led wire-to-wire en route to a 105-91 win over their newest rival, the Los Angeles Clippers.
With his new agent (hip-hop superstar Jay-Z) sitting courtside along with his wife Beyonce, Durant wasted no time proving his value. With Oklahoma City up 6-1, Durant buried a step-back 3-ball in former-OU-star Blake Griffin's face to put the Thunder up 9-1. KD would score 12 points on 5 of 7 shooting in the period as OKC took control early.
The Thunder extended that lead to 15-6 before the Clippers fought their way back into it.
Jamal Crawford brought Los Angeles back with a hot start from the floor, draining three jumpers including a 3-ball to bring the Clippers within 28-22 at the end of the first quarter.
The Thunder increased its lead to 13 at 45-32 at the 3:46 mark but LA exploded on a quick 7-0 run to get back within single digits at 45-39. Durant and Thabo Sefolosha helped the Thunder end the half on a positive note, each draining one from downtown to give OKC the 51-43 lead at the break.
Oklahoma City outshot the Clips 46.3 percent to 38.8 percent in the first half, while both squads hit 4 of 13 3-point attempts.
The Thunder outscored Los Angeles 30-29 in the third and took an 81-72 lead into the game's final period.
Jeremy Lamb helped OKC open the fourth on a 12-7 spurt to increase its lead to 93-79 with 7:11 left to play, and it became pretty clear the Clippers didn't have enough in the tank to make a serious comeback. Los Angeles looked understandably fatigued as it had just played in Minnesota Wednesday night.
The final nail in the coffin came with just four minutes to play, when Westbrook broke away in transition and found the cutting Durant for the thunderous slam, putting OKC up 97-84 and bringing the ‘Peake to a standing ovation.
The Thunder's improved defense was largely to credit for the double-digit win, limiting Los Angeles to just 91 points and 41.3 percent shooting. During last Wednesday's loss in LA, the Clips scored 111 points on 45.3 percent from the floor. The Thunder has also been especially stingy in limiting the 6-28 3-balls last week's matchup and just 8-28 Thursday night.
"We played about as well as we can play defensively against one of the best teams," Thunder coach Scott Brooks expressed. "We did a good job tonight. Blake (Griffin) got hot for a stretch, but we like guys taking long 2's. When we force teams to take long 2's we feel like that's to our advantage."
Sefolosha echoed Brooks' sentiments, describing the high-energy environment Thursday night.
"Tonight was a fun game, there was a good energy in the building. The team played extremely well from start to finish."
Durant finished with 28 points, eight assists and six rebounds to lead the Thunder while Serge Ibaka added 17 points on an impressive 8-10 shooting.
Chris Paul had a double-double of 17 points and 12 assists while Jamal Crawford scored 18 points for the Clippers. Griffin was also spectacular, scoring 27 to go with 10 boards in his return trip to Oklahoma.
But Durant & Westbrook weren't the only ones that found the range on Thursday night.
Brad Brucker, a high school teacher and coach, nailed yet another half-court shot to win $20,000. It's the second straight game a fan has hit the shot and the fifth such occasion since March 5. Brucker banked in the heave, bringing the crowd to a standing explosion, and even earning a congrats from Jay-Z and Beyonce.
Durant expressed his amazement at the shots after the game and also congratulated the successful fans.
"Wow. That's two in a row now, so, we were just talking about I think we might go broke after these guys make every half-court shot," Durant said with a smile. "Congratulations to the guys that made it and it's really fun to see those guys hit that shot."
Durant wasn't done smiling, though. He went on to describe his excitment to play in front of two of the world's biggest music icons.
"That was crazy. I don't even know how to describe that right there," Durant said. "That's unbelievable for them to come to Oklahoma City and come watch us play. It was cool to have them there. I knew they were coming a few days ago and I was all excited for them to come watch us play, and hopefully we gave ‘em a good show."
The Thunder (8-3) is back at it Sunday against the Utah Jazz. Los Angeles (8-5) hosts the Sacramento Kings on Saturday.