The West May Have A New Elite Big Man; Durant Shuts Down Chicago

Everybody has a few albums they know of where it was like Midas was controlling the mic, the mixing booth and the beats, all at once. Half the album in you’re still nodding your head so much people around you are just assuming you have a tic. Then the inspiration falls off and the last half is just OK — it completes the album but it can’t hold a candle to the revelation you just heard for the first half hour. That was the Clippers’ game Thursday night against Portland on the road. The master of those can’t-look-away first cuts? DeAndre Jordan. Yeah, it was a 103-90 victory by the best team in Los Angeles right now, but the Clippers gave back all but four of what was a 20-point lead in the second half because the Blazers just outworked them on defense once they found a mismatch. LA had the Blazers rudderless (when Portland missed 13 of 14 shots, it cued a 22-2 run by the LAC) and being beaten by wave after wave of Chris Paul-Jordan-Jamal Crawford in the first 30 minutes of game time. If we can throw in another pop culture analogy here, just imagine the “Truman Show” scene where Jim Carrey (aka Terry Stotts) is lifeless on a yacht while the show’s creator (CP3) sends a tsunami his way while laughing the whole time. Spoiler alert: Nicolas Batum‘s (23 points, nine rebounds, five assists) defensive assignment on Paul in the late third quarter and early fourth quarter helped spark Portland’s rally back, where they made 14-of-17 shots at one point and were throwing up oops to Meyers Leonard (eight points, six boards) like they owned the Lob City title (Leonard put Ronny Turiaf on a poster on one going baseline with the right hand). … That’s not the moral of the story, though, it was only how it ended. The bigger story is the magical first tracks that Jordan (21 points, eight boards) was creating in the first half for the Clips, a stretch that was one of his best in his entire career. Jordan wasn’t the guy who shied away from handling the ball like he did, oh, every fourth quarter last season. He got the ball on the block at least four times in the first 20 minutes and went right at J.J. Hickson, getting jump hooks to go. Or he was beating LaMarcus Aldridge (a quiet 14 points) to offensive boards and getting the hoop and the harm. At one point he even made five free throws in a row, this coming after he missed his first eight to open the season. He was smooth, disruptive on defense (maybe choosing the wrong option against Kyrie Irving‘s game-securing three a few nights back taught him a lesson) and crushing on offense while yes, calling for the ball. As Jordan and Blake Griffin (seven points, 10 boards) sat in the second half, it was Jamal Crawford (25 points) who turned out the lights with four big buckets inside the key in the fourth quarter alone. The ending nearly spoiled Jordan’s huge first half, but it can’t dim his performance that took all the early season reasons for hope, and put them together in a bundle. … Hit the jump to hear about KD’s answer in Chicago …

In the beginning, there was Serge Ibaka (15 of his 21 points in the first half) and Luol Deng (27 points on the night). At the end, it was all Kevin Durant. KD (24 points, six turnovers) hit a shot put of a jumper from the right short corner to put OKC up four with under a minute left, then iced it with a fading J from 16 feet in the Thunder’s 97-91 win over the Bulls on the road. He had 10 points in the fourth, going 4-of-6 from the field. Ibaka was in position in time to get Kirk Hinrich on a huge rejection in the first half, and his highlight swat on Deng keyed a big fast break in the fourth to get the Thunder up five. … Deng had a pretty good day but that wasn’t his only stroke of bad luck. Durant did what few have ever done, which is make Deng look silly on defense, on his stutter-step backdoor cut for a dunk to end the first quarter. In Chicago you can usually count on a cold wind off Lake Michigan, the Cubs failing miserably and Deng to be sicced on an opponent’s best player usually with favorable results. Not this time, though. Fast forward to the fourth and KD hit not one but two jumpers just out of reach of Deng to seal this game. … Well, at least OKC won one thing today. Their new alternate unis are not something to be psyched about. … Kobe’s “Death Stare” to Lakers head coach Mike Brown is getting plenty of notice, which gave Kobe another chance to put reporters, fans and critics on indiscriminate blast Thursday afternoon. When he got asked about his unblinking face of fury he shot at Brown at the end of Wednesday’s loss to Utah, he blew it off with the same kind of “everybody shut up” response he gave afte L.A. was 0-2. “God, people are bored.” As we wrote here before, Kobe has the cachet to say this but how does this make Laker fans feel? Good that he’s above all the day-to-day drama as he looks for the bigger solutions, or upset he’s not showing enough concern about what look like structural issues with this team? … We’re out like Mehmet Okur.

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