Another big test, and another big win for the Pacific-leading Clippers, a sometimes-sloppy, occasionally chippy, high-energy 111-103 slugfest over the Thunder that saw a near-fight between Blake Griffin and Serge Ibaka, with a furious Matt Barnes as the third man in.
The stars were out, doing star things. Chris Paul became the first player since Magic Johnson in 1990 to rack up nine consecutive double-doubles to start a season. Blake Griffin finished three assists shy of a triple-double. Kevin Durant was a monster in transition and was rewarded with 17 trips to the line, scoring 15 of his game-high 33 from the charity stripe.
But the difference was depth. Though leading by nine at the half, OKC couldn't get the support scoring for Durant and Westbrook that they've had in recent years from James Harden and even Kevin Martin. Besides's Ibaka's 6-for-6 from the field before his ejection, no other Thunder player scored in double figures. Thabo Sefolosha, Hasheem Thabeet, Reggie Jackson, Derek Fisher, and Jeremy Lamb combined to shoot 6-for-28.
The Clippers, meanwhile, had six players in double figures, including 20 off the bench from Jamal Crawford, just the type of volume scorer the Thunder could desperately use. Twelve of Crawford's points came in the fourth, including seven after OKC pulled to within four with 3:25 left. It seems obvious, but the Clippers have the chance to do something special this year because of their fully capable supporting cast for Griffin and Paul, who not only take the pressure off them to do everything, but can draw defenders to let them do their thing. (Oh, and DeAndre Jordan might finally be here. It's early, but he's averaging three more points and 4.6 more rebounds than his previous career highs.)
The real action took place with seconds left in the first half. Ibaka whacked Griffin in the face as he went up for a putback, Griffin hooked onto Ibaka's arm, Ibaka shoved Griffin off, and Matt Barnes shoved Ibaka right back. Tempers cooled, but Ibaka and Barnes were ejected, and Griffin received a tech.
There's history here. Back in March, Ibaka surreptitiously punched Griffin in the groin. But this scuffle might've just been the natural result of two conference favorites measuring each other up in as intense a game as they come in November.
"It's a regular game now. It's one of 82 now," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "But during the game, it wasn't, clearly. You could see both teams had a lot of interest in winning this game, which is good."
Perhaps all isn't quite well in Clipperland, though. While the game was still going on, Barnes sent out this tweet, which he later deleted:
Things will be fine. Barnes might find himself a little lighter in the wallet, but from comments after the game, there doesn't appear to be any locker room rift, just Barnes—who has previously complained about the NBA being too soft—blowing off steam. Besides, winning cures all ills, and the Clippers are going to do a lot of winning.