OKLAHOMA CITY -- Al Thornton calls Mike Taylor the "one-man press." The Oklahoma City Thunder and their first hometown crowd learned why in a painful way.
Taylor set up the go-ahead basket with a steal and then sent home an emphatic right-handed jam in the final minute as the Los Angeles Clippers spoiled the Thunder's only preseason home game Tuesday night with a 90-88 win.
Taylor picked Russell Westbrook's pocket and missed a fast-break layup, but Ricky Davis was there with the putback to give the Clippers (2-0) an 84-83 lead with 49.9 seconds remaining.
Taylor then followed two missed free throws by Westbrook, the Thunder's No. 4 overall draft pick, by driving past him down the lane for a dunk with 31.4 seconds to play and kept the lead at three by matching Kevin Durant's two free throws with two of his own.
"Containment and pressure, that's one of my strengths. Coach (Mike) Dunleavy, he stays after me to be a defensive pressurer, so that's what I do," Taylor said. "Offensively, that's just a God-given talent."
Taylor, who was kicked off of Iowa State's team last summer, played in the NBA Developmental League last season before getting drafted in the second round this year by Los Angeles. He's made the most of his opportunity with free-agent signee Baron Davis (flu) sidelined, scoring 20 points to lead the Clippers to a win against the Lakers in their preseason opener and following it with Tuesday's late heroics.
"He has a lot of energy and he's very talented," said Al Thornton, who was on the league's all-rookie team last season. "I call him the `one-man press.' He gives opposing teams' point guards hell."
Thornton led the Clippers with 23 points, Taylor finished with 14 and Ricky Davis had 13. Eric Gordon, the Clippers' first-round draft pick, scored nine points on 2-for-8 shooting in 22 minutes in his preseason debut.
Durant, the reigning rookie of the year, paced the Thunder (1-4) with 18 points but missed a potential tying 3-pointer with nine seconds left. Westbrook and Earl Watson scored 14, Johan Petro had 12 points and 15 rebounds and Desmond Mason and Nick Collison each added 10 points.
John Lucas III and Durant hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Oklahoma City its first lead since the first quarter, 74-72 with 6:41 to play, but Steve Novak answered with a 3 of his own to put the Clippers back on top.
Cuttino Mobley added another 3-pointer to put Los Angeles up 78-75, and the lead changed four more times in the final five minutes before Taylor's steal set up Davis for the go-ahead basket.
"To give him those minutes down the stretch and try and finish a game off was really strong," Dunleavy said.
Taylor said his focus right now isn't on trying to win a job on the team but on trying to run the team to the best of his capability and continue his solid play throughout training camp.
"I know coach Dunleavy believes in me. He drafted me, so I know he believes in me," Taylor said. "I just go out there and play basketball. I do what I do best, and everything else will fall into place."
If nothing else, Taylor may land himself on the highlight reels with his dunk that silenced a vocal Oklahoma City crowd, at least momentarily.
"That finish," Thornton said. "Man, that was tough."
Davis and F Tim Thomas (groin) didn't travel with the team. ... Thornton scored Los Angeles' first eight points as his teammates started out 0-for-7 from the field. ... Oklahoma City rock band Hinder was among the 16,410 in attendance. ... Collison (ankle) and F Chris Wilcox (shin) both left the game for Oklahoma City, which already had six other players out with injuries. After playing five preseason games in seven days, the Thunder now have the next eight days to regroup.
|L.A. Clippers (2-0) «||19||23||24||24||90|
|Oklahoma City (1-4)||19||19||22||28||88|
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