Looking beyond the Clippers' surge
Some questions remain, but L.A. has looked great and needs to be taken seriously
NBA coaches -- even in defeat -- are often complimentary of opponents, but it wasn't lost on anyone when Scott Brooks called the Los Angeles Clippers, "the best team we've faced all season."Brooks' Oklahoma City Thunder squad came into Staples Center as the West's sole superpower. In a conference loaded with a lot of good teams still appraising their assets, the Thunder know they're a group that's been constructed with great care. They're young but have accrued a ton of experience -- both the gallant loss to the Lakers in the first round of the 2010 postseason and last season's run to the conference finals. There's a professional air that travels with them, as if they were an offshoot of the Spurs. In a league in which so many teams are in flux, Oklahoma City is going to be very, very good for a long time. Yet on Monday night, the Thunder never had a chance against the Clippers, who maintained an average lead of 13 over the course of the night. The Clippers, who have been doubted by some as more novel than elite, produced their share of spectacles -- Blake Griffin's soaring on Kendrick Perkins the most dramatic -- but they also dominated the Thunder in the more substantive realms of the game. The Clippers generated the shots they wanted for the players most capable of making them. The defense wasn't perfect, but it moved quickly to cover its mistakes and refrained from fouling, which is how so many defenses get into trouble against Oklahoma City.
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Kevin Arnovitz covers the NBA for ESPN.com and is the editor of the TrueHoop Network.