Time: 8:00 PM CT
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC / 97.1 FM Tulsa)
Fresh off last night’s loss in Denver — Oklahoma City’s fourth consecutive defeat — the Thunder is back in action tonight against the Los Angeles Clippers. Tip-off is set for 8 PM CT from Chesapeake Energy Arena in OKC, and will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma.
Many are beginning to sound the alarm in regard to the Thunder’s 4-7 start, but the problem isn’t the record or even the losing streak — it’s the lack of improvement on a game-by-game basis. Very few of the Thunder’s issues have been corrected, with many staying the same or worsening. A general lack of cohesion followed the team on its recent three game road trip, but the hope is that things get easier in the comforts of home. Steven Adams is questionable with a calf contusion he suffered last night in Denver, so the path to victory could be considerably more difficult should he sit.
The Clippers come in losing five of the last six, as the team has been decimated with injuries in the early going. Los Angeles will be without Patrick Beverley, Danilo Gallinari, Milos Teodosic and perhaps Austin Rivers tonight, but still figures to present match-up problems in the front court. Blake Griffin will be a tall order for the Thunder defense, and DeAndre Jordan should have no problem exploiting OKC’s recent rebounding struggles. Regardless of injuries, the Clippers could still cause considerable problems.
- Steven Adams: Questionable — Calf
- Austin Rivers: Questionable — Ankle
- Patrick Beverley: Out — Knee
- Danilo Gallinari: Out — Glute
- Milos Teodosic: Out — Foot
Emphasis Areas & Notes
Starting Fast: Oklahoma City has combined to outscore opponents 53-32 in the first quarters of the last two games — building leads of 17 and 11 in the process. In the other six quarters across the same two game span, the Thunder has been outscored by 37 points and failed to score 20 or more points in three of the six. Not good.
The Thunder will again look to get off to a hot start, and hopefully learn to maintain/build on leads. Part of that will be slowing down opposing second units, as OKC has surrendered 51.5 points to opposing benches over the last two games.
Closing Strong: It’s well documented at this point, but the Thunder has some serious issues in the clutch. When the score is within five points in the final five minutes, OKC is surrendering 162 points per 100 possessions and has only assisted on three made baskets. This has led to the Thunder sitting at 0-6 in games that reach clutch time — a far cry from the success the team had in similar situations last season. Must learn how to close.
Surviving on the Glass: The Clippers are a good rebounding team, coming into tonight averaging 46.8 per contest — sixth in the NBA. Their 12.6 offensive rebounds per game is best in the league, and they’re led on the glass by DeAndre Jordan at 14.3 rebounds per game. Blake Griffin is averaging 8.5, as well.
The Thunder is tied for 19th in rebounding at 42.3 per game, and has yet to win a game in which the rebounding battle was lost. OKC will have its hands full with the Clippers, and should Steven Adams miss the game or be slowed by his calf contusion, it could quickly get ugly on the boards.
OK3 Management: If there’s one positive about the last four games for Westbrook, Anthony, and George, it’s that things couldn’t really look much worse. They’ve lived on entirely different pages during the losing streak, and could desperately use a step forward in their development as a unit.
Each man has his work cut out for him, but it begins with Russell Westbrook. He’s averaged 19.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 7.8 assists over the last four games, shooting just 34 percent on 22 attempts per contest. His three-point percentage in the same span is 29 percent, his free throw percentage has been 47 percent, and he’s looked like an extremely frustrated shell of his former self. Getting him on track early would be a massive boost for the Thunder, and he’ll have that opportunity with the Clippers very banged up at point guard.
Should Steven Sit: Should Steven Adams ultimately sit due to his calf contusion, Jerami Grant would figure to get the start at center. The idea of him matching up with DeAndre Jordan feels like a cruel joke, but Grant’s averaging 23 minutes per contest and closed the game after Adams exited last night. Dakari Johnson is worth a look, but has only logged 8 minutes so far this season. Wouldn’t be surprising to see Patrick Patterson handle some of the load, and perhaps even some Nick Collison.
DeAndre & Nick: Speaking of Nick Collison, DeAndre Jordan shared some praise for Hair Jordan over the summer. In a piece for Players Tribune, he said, “Nick is not the tallest dude, but he’s relentless. He’s a hard, hard competitor. When I play him I know I’m gonna be sore in the morning, because I gotta box this guy out every time—and I know he’s gonna box me out every time. Getting rebounds when you’re 6’11” is definitely easier, but it’s not easy. With some rebounds, yeah, I can just go up and grab it. But whenever a guy like Nick guards me, or a team throws two or three guys like Nick at me, they’re in the game for one reason: to make my night miserable.”
Someone Save Melo: Blake Griffin is averaging 22.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and shooting 40 percent from three for Los Angeles. Carmelo Anthony will presumably draw that match-up defensively, but Billy Donovan should be prepared to throw a variety of looks at BG. Patrick Patterson has been atrocious on offense, but would be a great candidate to try and slow down Griffin on the other end.
Clipper Starters: The Clippers have listed Austin Rivers, Lou Williams, Wesley Johnson, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan as the probable starters. Should Rivers ultimately sit due to his ankle sprain, rookie Jawun Evans out of Oklahoma State would presumably be the next man up.
Clippers @ Thunder. 8 PM CT on Fox Sports Oklahoma. Post will be updated to reflect the injury status of Steven Adams.