Tuesday, May 6, 2014
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Chris Paul got the best of Russell Westbrook in a matchup of two of the league's best point guards.
Paul made a career-high eight 3-pointers and scored 32 points to help the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Thunder 122-105 Monday night in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal.
Paul, who had never made more than five 3-pointers in a game, also had 10 assists.
"It was just one of those nights," he said. "This one will definitely go down in the history books for me. Don't count on it for Game 2, I can tell you that."
Though Paul is a career 36 percent 3-point shooter, he doesn't usually shoot them so often. Once he started hitting them, he became increasingly aggressive. He made 8 of 9 on the night.
"When somebody's got it going like that, you just try to stay out of the way as much as possible, but also help keep that fire going," Clippers forward Blake Griffin said.
Westbrook led the Thunder with 29 points on 9-for-14 shooting, but he had six turnovers and just four assists. Kevin Durant had 25 points and Serge Ibaka added 12 for the Thunder.
Oklahoma City thought it defended Paul relatively well.
"I thought on a lot of those 3s, especially early in the game, we had a hand in his face and a hand in his shots," Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha said. "So we did a decent job, but those shots went in, and that boosted their whole team."
The Thunder suffered their worst home loss since moving to Oklahoma City.
"We have to get more physical," Durant said. "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."
Griffin scored 23 points, Jamal Crawford had 17 and J.J. Redick added 12 for the Clippers. Game 2 is Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.
Both teams were coming off Game 7 wins in the first round on Saturday night, but only the Thunder looked weary. Oklahoma City opened by taking a 16-10 lead, but the Clippers responded with a 24-6 run. Paul hit five 3-pointers in the first quarter, matching his career high for 3s in a playoff game in the first 12 minutes. The Clippers shot 67 percent in the first quarter to take a 39-25 lead.
"I've never seen him this aggressive," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "He felt like he needed to set the tone."
Los Angeles extended its lead to 24 points in the second quarter and took a 69-52 halftime lead, with Paul getting 22 points and six assists.
Durant and Westbrook scored 16 points each in the first half, but the Thunder committed 11 turnovers before halftime.
A quick 3-pointer and a pull-up jumper by Paul pushed the Clippers' lead to 78-56 in the opening minutes of the third quarter. The Clippers reached 100 points with just over a minute left in the period and led 104-78 heading into the fourth quarter.
The score that matters to the Thunder is 1-0. They were behind 2-1 and 3-2 against Memphis in the first round and rallied to win the series.
"We just understand that we don't go into Game 2 with a 17-point lead," Paul said. "You know, you've just got to come back and be hungry and not be satisfied with one."
NOTES: Sefolosha rejoined the starting lineup after sitting out the final two games against Memphis. Thunder coach Scott Brooks said before Monday's game that he started Caron Butler in Games 6 and 7 against Memphis because the team needed another offensive weapon. ... Griffin attended the University of Oklahoma. He got a mixed reaction during pregame introductions. ... The Clippers made 7 of 10 3-point attempts in the first quarter. ... Ibaka was issued a technical foul in the third quarter after getting his legs tangled up with Griffin. ... Clippers C DeAndre Jordan made just 1 of 8 free throw attempts. ... Durant was issued a technical foul for arguing with an official with 10:40 remaining in the fourth quarter. ... The Clippers committed just nine turnovers. ... Oklahoma City outrebounded the Clippers 47-31.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.