Originally Published: May 9, 2014

1. OKC Calls On Playoff Experience Against L.A.

By J.A. Adande | ESPN.com

LOS ANGELES -- The Thunder-Clippers series we expected finally got here Friday night, as competitive and ornery as a back-alley fight, with 19 lead changes and five technical fouls. And no sooner had the series arrived then it became obvious that it isn't about this one.

It's about series, plural.

It's the 12th playoff series for Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder. It's only the fifth playoff series together for Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and this version of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Russell Westbrook
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesRussell Westbrook finished two rebounds shy of his second straight triple-double in OKC's Game 3 win.

The Thunder had more of the elements required to win a playoff game, elements such as patience, poise, toughness, big shot-making. Those are qualities that develop over time. They were the reason why Oklahoma City won 118-112 to take a 2-1 series lead.

"You grow from experience," Durant said. "Having been here before, it's helped it out."

Three years ago in the Western Conference finals, it was the Thunder who came home from a road split and dropped Game 3 to the Dallas Mavericks the way the Clippers did Friday. So they've been in the situation the Clippers now face. It didn't work out so well for OKC that time; they wound up losing in five games.

Now the Thunder have been through everything short of winning the championship. They've overcome a 2-0 deficit in a series. They've won Game 7s. They've played in the NBA Finals. The Thunder have won five of the past six series they've played with Westbrook involved and are now halfway to making it six of seven.

"We've grown leaps and bounds from where we were before," Durant said.

I thought Metta World Peace provided an interesting time machine to put the Thunder in perspective while also describing the Pacers-Wizards game.

The Clippers are somewhere in between. They did many things right, including 34 points from Blake Griffin and 16 assists from Chris Paul. They even kept up with the Thunder at the free-throw line, shooting 84 percent. But they lost the category that most reflects desire, rebounds, 44-33.

"Rebounding is really just about going and getting it," said Griffin, who got eight boards.

They also lost a little bit of their cool. Griffin even lost some blood, after catching an elbow from Serge Ibaka. At least he didn't lose his sense of humor.

"I got to be careful where I put my face," Griffin said.

They let the Thunder outscore them 32-22 in the fourth quarter, failing to get the big defensive stops when necessary. There were shots taken a little too fast, defensive rotations made a little too late.

"Instead of just keeping playing, you felt like you had to tell them," Doc Rivers said.

Compare that to Thunder coach Scott Brooks, who didn't call a timeout when the Clippers scored the first seven points of the game. His squad rewarded him by reeling in the Clippers on their own. And for all of the criticisms of Brooks' basic offense, basic worked just great in Game 3: The Thunder kept going to Ibaka at the left elbow and he kept knocking down the 17-footer.

Ibaka had 20 points, Durant 36 and Westbrook 23 to go with 13 assists. Seventy-nine points from guys who have played a combined 183 playoff games.

The Thunder made it simple for the less-experienced players. Steven Adams is a rookie, but all they ask of him is to run in straight lines from rim to rim, knock people around and go after the ball when it's around.

Adams had nine rebounds in 17 minutes (one more than Griffin had in 42 minutes).

The veterans no longer are lacking. They're getting the shooting from Durant that went astray in the middle of the Memphis series. They're getting the attack mode that Westbrook lacked in Game 1.

Most of all, they're getting the benefits of playing series after series together.

Dimes past: April 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | May 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

J.A. Adande | email

ESPN Senior Writer

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