Point guard Chris Paul, getting tangled with Thunder power forward Nick… (Christina House / For the…)
Something had to be done to slow down Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City's dynamic duo.
So the Clippers switched from their man-to-man defense to a zone defense in the second half, and it worked enough to get them back into the game that L.A. eventually lost, 108-104, Sunday.
Durant had 20 first-half points on seven-for-15 shooting, two for four on three-pointers. He finished with 35 points but was only three for 10 from the field in the second half, one for five from three-point range.
Westbrook was steady throughout, scoring 10 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter.
"I thought the zone overall at times was effective," said Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro. "But we didn't rebound well out of it and that hurt us."
By employing a three-two zone, the Clippers actually got back into the game and took a one-point lead.
It probably won't be the last time the Clippers use the zone.
"Yeah, I definitely think it's something that we can use in the future," said point guard Chris Paul. "It worked there for us. That defense is what helped us get back in the game, and I just think we've got to keep working on it. It's something that could be a weapon for us."
Sacrificing playing time
Del Negro talked about how deep his team is and how "guys have made sacrifices" to play limited minutes.
Now that the Clippers have a completely healthy 13-man roster for the first time this season, Del Negro has been trying to figure out ways to use all of his players.
"I like the way the balance of the roster is in terms of that we have some really good guys that understand the big picture," Del Negro said.
Del Negro said having veterans such as Chauncey Billups, Lamar Odom and Grant Hill helps.
"There's no egos involved," Del Negro said. "It's all about winning. That's been the most exciting thing. Guys have had to step up throughout the season at different times. That doesn't mean we don't have our issues and there's not frustration from guys. It's part of it. But overall, I would say I've been pleased with the overall direction hopefully that we're heading."
Bledsoe still dealing with injury
Del Negro said backup point guard Eric Bledsoe's sore left calf remains irritated and has affected his play lately.
Bledsoe missed one game because of the injury but has played in the last three games.
"We're just trying to manage it," Del Negro said. "Any injury is difficult, but he needs his athleticism. That calf has been pretty tight. But, yeah, he's got to get his energy up and just his overall approach has got to be a little bit better. He's battling through the injury right now, but we need him out there playing at a high level for us, no question."
Bledsoe had two points and three rebounds against the Thunder on Sunday.
"It's getting better," Bledsoe said. "I'm just getting treatment on it."