As a rookie, Blake Griffin often dominated early before seemingly running out of energy late. No longer. Griffin used the first half to probe the defense and the second to exploit its weaknesses, abusing the overmatched Serge Ibaka in the paint. Plus, he brought the Staples Center to its feet with his Mozgov-ing of Kendrick Perkins -- an instant YouTube Classic.
How's this for an oversimplified trend? The Clippers are now 8-0 when Chris Paul scores at least 16 points. Also, they're now 1-0 when Chris Paul plays completely out of his mind. Throughout the second half, whenever the Thunder's hopes of a comeback flickered, he extinguished them with a perfect lob pass or dagger J.
Defending the league's elite small forwards seems to bring out Caron Butler's best on the offensive end as well. Tonight he rolled another fast start (11 first-quarter points) into his most complete game this season, draining four 3s while mostly limiting Durant to midrange shots. His quick release and nose for space make Butler the perfect spot-up option for Paul late in the clock.
It makes sense that Vinny Del Negro has been experimenting with a three-guard lineup since three of his six best players are 6-foot-3 and smaller. The Clips' three-headed point guard corps controlled the game flow, protecting the ball and constantly finding open shots -- an impressive 62 percent of the Clipper baskets were assisted.
The Thunder, winners of 11 of their past 12, have been the cream of the West this season. But they're hardly flawless. The Thunder gave the ball away 12 times tonight, augmenting a league-worst turnover ratio. Good pressure D from the Clippers limited their chances to run, forcing Kevin Durant into a night of isolation plays and midrange jumpers.