Clippers (37-20, 14-15 road) vs. Thunder (43-13, 23-4 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 109.5 (6th), Clippers – 111.0 (3rd)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.3 (4th), Clippers – 104.9 (11th)
Pace: Thunder – 95.1 (11th), Clippers – 95.6 (8th)
After Thursday unfortunate performance, a new premium has been placed on this one. But really, this was always the more important game. The one against the Heat carried weight because of the individual merits between LeBron and KD, but really, playing an Eastern Conference opponent doesn’t mean near as much as playing a Western one that’s chasing you for the top seed.
So here are the Clippers, looking a strong outfit, but one that’s lost two straight themselves. They’re certainly as eager to bounce back as the Thunder, but two things work in OKC’s favor: 1) They’re better and 3) they’re at home. The Clippers are a mediocre 14-15 away from Staples this season and have struggled to play with the same kind of pace and intensity they do at home.
But the Thunder are going to have to play well to win, and that could be tough as they readjust to Russell Westbrook. The Thunder have played well as of late against the Clippers, but they still seem to be one of the more dangerous matchups for them. The threat of Chris Paul and the athleticism of their front line have them looking a potential problem for OKC, so this is an opportunity to build a little more confidence against them. And more importantly, create a little more distance.
Three Big Things
1. Starting five. Just as soon as the Thunder finally got their starting five back, they have to resort things with Kendrick Perkins out. Steven Adams has started once before against the Clippers, and really struggled defending the pick-and-roll. It’s complicated for OKC, because Nick Collison is the best option at the 5, but DeAndre Jordan is too big for him.
2. Russ. Game two of his return. Another tough matchup. How does he adjust? How many minutes does he play? When does he play?
3. Transition. The Clippers play on the break. The Thunder are often bad in transition defense. This seems to be an important factor in this game.
Tip at 12:00 CT. Go Wake Up.