Thunder (5-1, 2-1 road) vs. Clippers (5-3, 3-0 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 104.3 (11th), Clippers– 112.5 (3rd)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 101.7 (8th), Clippers – 108.9 (28th)
Pace: Thunder – 96.9 (11th), Clippers – 97.7 (6th)
It’s November, which means it would be extremely short-sighted and silly to draw a big conclusion from tonight’s outcome against the Clippers. But still, it’s the Thunder playing a really good team and a likely obstacle, so forget that.
This is the first of a three-game road trip in which coming back to OKC 2-1 would be a pretty big win. With a back-to-back against the Clippers and Warriors, then wrapping with Milwaukee, the Thunder would have to play really well to win two of these three.
The Clippers a deep, talented and athletic. And on paper, they seem to present a number of matchup issues for the Thunder. But OKC went 3-0 and while only one of those games was with both teams at full strength, the Thunder were clearly the superior team. The Clippers are rebuilt though with a lot more depth and obviously Doc Rivers running the show
It’s too early to set any bars to measure with, but this is a big chance for the Thunder to maybe toss out a gentle reminder that yes, they still are among the Western elite no matter what the perception has become.
Clippers coming in: Played on Monday and beat the Wolves in a close one.
Three Big Things
1. FUNAKI. Kendrick Perkins is out tonight and for the next one because of a death in the family. So Scott Brooks is giving the starting role to the rookie, instead of doing what I assumed and letting Nick Collison begin the game. Adams is the backup center and he’s absolutely earned this, but with the murmurings bounding about Adams taking Perk’s job there’s a chance this could only accelerate that if Adams performs the way he’s capable of. Then again, Adams is the Thunder’s future at center, so this is a chance to get a little look at him how he fits and operates as a starter. He’s got a difficult matchup in dealing with DeAndre Jordan’s athleticism and Blake Griffin’s motor, so Adams won’t have it easy tonight. And he’ll probably be called upon for 30 or so minutes.
2. Perimeter defense. The Clippers average 8.5 makes from 3 a game, which is eighth in the league. And the Thunder’s perimeter defense has been inconsistent and spotty so far this season. The Clippers are terrific at spreading out and running counteractions all over with Chris Paul operating in the pick-and-roll. So it’s going to put a lot of pressure on OKC’s defense.
3. Turnovers. The Clippers have been really poor defensively, but where they can hurt people is in forcing live-ball turnovers and turning those into quick points. Doc Rivers has tried to say Lob City is dead, but it’s not. It’s still the team’s identity and when they get that rolling, look out. I don’t think it’s bad for the Thunder to play at their pace as long as the possessions are getting good looks. But starting getting loose with the ball or missing contested shots early in the 24, and this could be a bad night.
Tip at 9:30 CT. Go Kiwi.