OKLAHOMA CITY — There was this moment in the second quarter.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had just converted two straight trips down the court and the Thunder, down as many as 13 points in the first quarter, were suddenly within one.
The fans inside Chesapeake Energe Arena rose to their feet without being asked. It was that famous Oklahoma City crowd, moved by its team.
Patrick Beverley missed a 3 and the Thunder fans loved that, too.
It was electric.
It was pandemonium.
Too bad it was OKC’s high-water mark and 30 minutes still remained in a game Los Angeles would dominate, eventually winning 109-94.
In the space of four days and two games, the Thunder have suffered their worst road loss of the season, by 47 points at Milwaukee, and their worst home loss of the season, by 15 to the Clippers.
They lost another game by 15 points, too, to the LeBron-less Lakers back on Jan. 11.
Thunder point guard Chris Paul found a bright side.
“It’s a really good team over there with a lot of depth,” he said. “I think this will be a learning experience for us. We need more games like this to sort of see what it’s going to be like come playoff time."
The Clippers are indeed hard to beat.
Though they somehow managed to lose, consecutively, to Philadelphia, Boston and Sacramento, they have since won five straight, the last three against apparent playoff teams: Denver, Philly and Oklahoma City.
But for that second-quarter blitz, the Thunder offered no run, no sustained threat in which they teased reaching clutch territory, where they’ve excelled so much this season.
“We just could never string enough stops together, nor enough really, really good possessions where we could get on an offensive run,” Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said. “We were never really able to score at the rate necessary.”
By the half, it was back to being a 12-point game. In the third quarter, it was never any closer than nine points. In the fourth quarter it was never any closer than the final score.
Los Angeles did it without getting huge games from anybody, though Kawhi Leonard was plenty good, finishing with 25 points, eight rebounds and two steals.
Paul George and Montrezl Harrell both finished with 16 points and Lou Willaims added 14.
The Clippers didn’t even shoot that well, finishing 45.2 percent (38 of 84) overall and 30.6 percent (11 of 36) from 3-point land.
OKC only managed 42 percent (24 of 81), 32.1 percent (9 of 28) from beyond the 3-point arc and just 17 of 26 from the free-throw line, where the Clippers cashed in 22 of 26.
Dennis Schroder led the Thunder off the bench with 24 points. Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari both added 15. Chris Paul finished with 14 points and seven assists. Seven Adams only scored four points, but grabbed 10 rebounds.
“The last two games we’ve played the best teams in the league,” Schroder said. “So now we know what we got to focus on, what we’ve got to do to play on this level.”
About that one-point deficit, when Beverley missed the 3?
The Thunder never had the ball with a chance to take back the lead.
Beverley missed, but Harrell grabbed the rebound and dunked it home.
Back on the Thunder’s end, Nerlens Noel missed from 15 feet, before Terrance Ferguson grabbed the board and Gilgeous-Alexander missed from 20 feet, before Noel grabbed another rebound and Oklahoma City failed to beat the shot clock.
The Thunder missed two more shots, two free throws and turned the ball over three times before scoring again when Schroder finally hit a gliding layup. By that time, Los Angeles led 57-42. It was never much of a game after that.
“We would have liked to have won,” Paul said, “but we just keep moving.”
OKC will try again when it tips at Detroit at 6 tonight.
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