OKC Thunder (32-9, 13-6 road) at Los Angeles Clippers (32-10, 19-4 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 112.9 (1st), Clippers– 110.4 (4th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.3 (7th), Clippers – 100.9 (5th)
Pace: Thunder – 92.8 (8th), Clippers – 92.0 (10th)
View from the enemy: ClipperBlog
So this is a pretty big game.
For the first half of the season, the Thunder are the top team in the West. But depending on the result of tonight’s game, will they start the second half that way? The Thunder already took down the Clippers once, albeit in OKC and with the Clippers clearly underperforming. Was that a result of the way the Thunder played them, or just a bad night for the Clips? We’ll probably get a little more clarity on that tonight.
One thing is for sure: The Clippers are legit. Forget the name on the jersey, forget their history. This team is every bit the contender they appear to be. They’re a real threat to the Thunder’s Western Conference title chances, and something as simple as maintaining a home court edge over them could be what separates the two teams.
OKC’s already up 1-0 in the season series so not only would the Thunder gain another game on the Clippers in the standings, but they’d inch closer to holding the tiebreaker as well. It’s not just your every day regular season game. This one is bigger, for real reasons.
Clippers coming in: The Clippers played last night, losing to the Warriors.
Three Big Things
1. Thabo on CP3. Chris Paul has been working his way back from a bothersome knee injury the past few games and didn’t play well last night against the Warriors. He also played horribly in the first meeting with the Thunder as Scott Brooks rolled out a wrinkle using Thabo Sefolosha on him. Thabo’s length took away CP3’s midrange game and with Serge Ibaka patrolling the paint, anything easy at the rim
2. Live-ball turnovers. Like zombies feast on brains, the Clippers’ lifeblood is live-ball turnovers. Give it away to the Clips in the open floor and it’s basically an automatic two points. Combine the fact that those transition plays build momentum on their home floor, bring the crowd into the game and can rattle you, the Thunder can’t be giving the ball away 20 times. (Of course, they turned it over 19 times in the first meeting and won by sort of handily, but do that on the road and it’ll cause big problems.)
3. Bench issues. The Clippers clearly have an edge with their second unit. It’s one of the best in basketball with Jamal Crawford, Eric Bledsoe and Matt Barnes. OKC’s bench has been a question all season long. In the first meeting, Kevin Martin outplayed Crawford and the Thunder second unit held their own. With a game tomorrow night against the Warriors, I’m sure Scott Brooks would prefer not to play Durant and Westbrook 45 minutes tonight, but he’s going to need the bench to step up if that’s going to be the case.
Tip at 9:30 CT. Go Big Game.