April 18, 2024

The Oklahoma City Thunder presented a significant opportunity for the Clippers to prove they belong at the top of the uber-competitive Western Conference.

Instead, they missed another opportunity to prove they belong among the NBA’s elite teams.

The Clippers’ 129-107 loss to the Thunder on Thursday night coming out of the All-Star break marked their second straight to a team ahead of them in the standings, following their 121-100 loss to the first-place Minnesota Timberwolves on Feb. 12.

The game got away from the Clippers in the third quarter when they made just 29.6% of their shots. The Thunder shot a sizzling 70% from the field and 71.4% from three-point range over the same stretch as the Clippers were outscored 35-23. A 13-3 run by the Thunder to cap the quarter put the Clippers in a 14-point hole.

When their deficit grew to 19 points in the fourth, the Clippers (36-18) made one last push. But with 3:53 left and the Clippers down 115-99, coach Tyronn Lue pulled four starters — Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Ivica Zubac and James Harden — aware that they have a game Friday night in Memphis.

Leonard led the way with 20 points on nine-for-12 shooting. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 31 for the Thunder.

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