Thunder (56-21, 24-14 road) vs. Clippers (55-23, 32-6 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 110.5 (7th), Clippers – 112.0 (1st)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.7 (5th), Clippers – 104.6 (8th)
Pace: Thunder – 95.9 (9th), Clippers – 95.9 (6th)
Big game. The Clippers trail the Thunder by two in the loss column, which you can look at two ways. One side, the Thunder have a magic number of four meaning a win trims it to two and all but locks away the No. 2 seed. The other side, the Clippers can close to within one and by doing so would also lock up the tiebreaker in their favor.
What the Thunder have to focus on tonight though, is just playing well. It seems they have a knack to elevate their play in the big games against the good opponents (see: the Spurs game), and in terms of maintaining quality playoff position as well as liking the way you’re playing, this is about as big a regular season game as you’re going to find. And in some ways, a nice little tune-up for the postseason. This game will likely be intense and heated, with some big ups and downs. Got to stick together and keep playing regardless of the situation.
The Clippers present a number of matchup issues for the Thunder, but that’s not to say the Thunder can’t get favorable lineups on the floor. The Clippers don’t have Jamal Crawford, who was a big problem for OKC the last time these teams played, but J.J. Redick is back in the lineup and with the way Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are playing, the Thunder won’t be able to get away with sloppy offense and lackluster defense.
Three Big Things
1. Transition. The Clippers hurt the Thunder badly running the floor in the last meeting, doing it off both makes and misses. Live ball turnovers turn into two points against this team so the Thunder have to make sure they don’t just take care of the ball, but take care of their offense. Long misses are often the first pass of a fast break the other way.
2. Momentum. John Schuhmann had a great stat today that the Thunder have the best record in games where they trailed by 10 or more at some point. OKC always does a nice job of weathering storms and making a competitive push back. It also helps to have Kevin Durant. But this game will definitely feature some runs, both good and bad, so hanging tough, not getting ejected and just staying in the game is big.
3. Full strength. The Thunder are going to put out their full starting five for the first time since the All-Star break. How will rotations and lineups look? Who’s in the closing five? Nice little preview here.
Tip at 9:30 CT. Go Important Game.