OKLAHOMA CITY -- For the better part of three seasons the Los Angeles Clippers have continually talked about the “process.”
As in, it’s a “process” to become a championship team and it’s a “process” to learn what it takes to win games in the postseason. They spoke about it when Vinny Del Negro was the coach, and they’ve talked about it even more under Doc Rivers.
If they’re going to be a championship team, they have to go through that “process”; there are no shortcuts.
“Each team is different,” Rivers said. “There’s no one process. I wish there was. We’d all have a handbook and do it. But it’s about working together as a team and understanding you have to go through that process. It’s the defensive practices, the offensive executions and the end of the game executions.
“You have to go through that entire process and not get bored with it to get where you want to go. Our guys have bought in.”
It took this group three years. But they believed in the process and finally did something on Monday the Clippers had not done since 2006 and Chris Paul had not done since 2008: They won a game in the second round of the playoffs.
The Clippers’ 122-105 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals felt like more than just a one-game victory. It felt like a statement to the rest of the NBA that the Clippers are finally legitimate championship contenders and ready to take the next step toward advancing to the conference finals for the first time in franchise history.
How it happened: After a back-and-forth start to the first quarter when the Thunder went up by six points, the Clippers grabbed a 14-point lead before the end of the opening period and never looked back. Their lead would balloon to 24 points in the second quarter and 28 points in the third quarter. The Clippers were never really challenged. The Clippers’ second unit helped spark the run at the end of the first quarter and into the second quarter and finished with 38 points.
What it means: The Clippers have taken a 1-0 lead in the series and stolen home-court advantage from Oklahoma City.
Hits: Paul had said he wanted to be more aggressive in this series; he didn’t waste any time. He finished with 32 points in 27 minutes, hitting 12-of-14 from the field and 8-of-9 from 3. He also had 10 assists and two rebounds. Blake Griffin added 23 points and five rebounds. J.J. Redick had 12 points, while Jamal Crawford added 17 points off the bench.
Misses: No real misses on a night when the Clippers went up by as many as 28 points on the Thunder in the second half.
Stat of the game: Paul was 8-for-8 from the 3 line before missing one and finished one 3-pointer away from the single-game playoff record of nine 3s shared by Ray Allen, Jason Terry, Vince Carter and Rex Chapman.
Up next: The Clippers will take on the Thunder at Oklahoma City in Game 2 of their second-round series on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. PT.