There are a pair of Batman and Robin’s on the court for the Oklahoma City Thunder – L.A. Clippers NBA Western Semifinal series and the argument rages on as to which duo is numero uno.
On one side, Blake Griffin, third place in the NBA MVP voting, alongside Chris Paul, perennial all-star and arguably the top point guard in the NBA.
On the other side, league MVP Kevin Durant and all-star human dynamo Russell Westbrook, who may be closer to the Human Torch than Robin.
In game one of the best of seven Monday night in Oklahoma City, the combined numbers were fairly close but in the Clippers favor. Griffin and Paul combined for 19-of-30 shooting, 8-0f-9 from three-point range (all Paul), 9-of-12 from the line (all Griffin) for 55 points, seven rebounds and 15 assists. Durant and Westbrook combined for 18-of-33 shooting, 4-of-10 threes, 14-of-18 from the line for 54 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
Chris Paul hit his first seven threes on Monday night
The big difference in the game was the fact that the rest of the Thunder players combined to score three fewer points than Durnat and Westbrook combined, along with the fact that nobody covered Paul or the rest of the Clippers from three-point range as they hit a whopping 15-of-29.
Griffin and Paul work more in tandem, feeding off each other’s offensive and defensive actions and knowing how to complement (and compliment) each other. Griffin sensed early in game one that Paul had the feeling, so instead of posting up and calling for the ball, he came high and set screens to get Paul free.
“When somebody’s got it going like that, you just try to stay of the way as much as possible, but also help keep that fire going,” said the Oklahoma City native Griffin. “In the second half, we were moving the ball so well, but it all started defensively. We just tried to stay out of his way and let him do what he was doing.”
For Paul’s part, as Westbrook put it, “He wasn’t doing anything crazy. He was just shooting threes.” Paul didn’t go out looking to have a big offensive game, but as just took what he was given.
“It wasn’t like I was coming down and making unbelievable shot,” said Paul., “It was because the court was open and I had two defenders on Blake. He puts so much pressure on the defense and BG is such a great passer.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers described Paul this way.
“He’s just very, very smart . He sometimes gets in the way with that because he’s thinking so much, but today he was in a great place,” said Rivers. “He played free without thought but when we needed him to, he did it. I thought his intuition was phenomenal. He knew we needed a good start and he got one for us. That’s why he’s just who he is.
After playing a controlled game in the first round series finale against Memphis, Westbrook reverted somewhat to his Jekyll and Hyde ways, hitting most of his shots, but committing some unforced turnovers, six of them to be exact. Durant missed some chippies that he would normally convert and both he and Westbrook were part of the Thunder’s total defensive collapse.
By the time the Thunder made enough contact with the Clippers to pick up their first team foul, L.A. already had 32 points and there was just over a minute left in the opening quarter. Durant knows the defense must tighten up.
“We have to get more physical,” said Durant. “I’m not talking about hard fouls, I’m talking about jamming the lane, fighting through screens and not letting guys run free. We just have to be more physical.”
It’s not often that you are treated to these type of combos matched up in one series. If the Thunder’s stars can rally back in game two Wednesday night, the debate on which duo has the o