Thunder (7-5, 3-2 road) vs. Clippers (6-6, 4-2 home)
A lot going on heading into this one. First, the Thunder can close it and advance to the Western Conference finals. Second, it’s coming off that wild Game 5. And third, Complain-Gate with Doc Rivers where he spent his postgame presser griping. Can the Thunder muster a performance on the road and finish it? Or can the Clippers get over the devastation of Game 5 and compete?
The way Chris Paul looked after Game 5, it seemed like it would be impossible for him to get it back together. He was completely distraught, just gutted from the way he finished that game. But he’s one of the fiercest competitors in basketballs, and if anyone is putting that behind him, it’s CP3. He’s going to come to play, and he’s probably going to be angry.
The Clippers now have desperation on their side, and can take something from the fact they completely owned and controlled Game 5 despite losing it. The Thunder played like hot garbage for essentially 44 minutes, finally snapping out of it by just playing as hard as they possibly could.
Now, they’re shown what they’re capable of, specifically in Games 2 and 3. The Thunder were dominant on both ends of the floor, and executed well in the halfcourt. For basically 40 minutes of Game 4, they did more of it and then fell apart and carried it over to Game 5. Which Thunder shows up tonight?
Five Big Things
1. Distribution. It’s no coincidence that the Thunder’s best performance (Game 2) featured 10 assists from Westbrook and nine from Durant. They both scored 30+, but were able to find their creativity as well. When they’re scoring and assisting, it makes the Thunder’s offense dynamic and powerful.
2. Bench. New game, same story. Get a little production.
3. Make shots. The Thunder’s offense isn’t going to magically fix itself, so the plan is to simply make the shots they get. Talking to you, Kevin Durant. I’m sorry the looks might not be all that great, but that’s why you are who you are. You can make ’em no matter what they look like.
4. Foul trouble. Specifically, Serge Ibaka. When he’s been on the floor, Blake Griffin is shooting 43 percent this series. When he’s off, 60 percent. Ibaka is important.
5. Poise. The closing game is always the most difficult to win. You’re playing a wounded animal, that’s fighting for their life. You’re not just competing against their ability, but their emotions.
Tip at 9:30 CT. Go Close.