2012-2013 Game 42 Preview: Thunder Look to Secure 1 Seed vs. Clippers

This is how you can tell when Westbrook is serious. - Mark D. Smith-US PRESSWIRE

The race to the top of the Western Conference has remained jam packed, with two teams currently sitting a half game behind the Thunder. One of those teams, the Los Angeles Clippers, will play the Thunder tonight

2012-2013 NBA Season
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The Oklahoma City Thunder (32-9)
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The Los Angeles Clippers(32-10)
January 22nd, 2013
The Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
9:30 PM CST
National Basketball Association Television, Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Prime Ticket
WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1), KFWB 980 AM
Enemy Blogs: Clips Nation, ClipperBlog
Previous Meetings: Nov 21 (Thunder Lead Season Series 1-0)
Injury Report: Chauncey Billups (Out), Trey Thompkins (Out)
Probable Starters
Russell Westbrook PG Chris Paul
Thabo Sefolosha SG Willie Green
Kevin Durant SF Caron Butler
Serge Ibaka PF Blake Griffin
Kendrick Perkins C DeAndre Jordan

The race to the top of the Western Conference has remained jam packed, with two teams currently sitting a half game behind the Thunder. One of those teams, the Los Angeles Clippers, will play the Thunder tonight. And if the Thunder could somehow sneak out of this game with a win, they'd secure what could be a very valuable advantage in terms of playoff positioning. Against the Clippers, that's hard to do. The only team to secure an advantage against them so far has been the Golden State Warriors, who have accounted for 3 of their 10 losses.

Still, it's a definite possibility. The Thunder held a solid lead throughout their matchup against the Clippers in December, and were able to keep the pace brisk. The game did end up going to overtime, but that was mostly because the Thunder failed to make their threes in the second half. The slower pace favored the Clippers, and they were able to consistently get to the line and slowly grind their way back into the game.

Working against the Thunder is the health of Grant Hill and Caron Butler, who definitely add an extra dimension to the Clips defense and offense, respectively. You can expect Butler to nail the treys that Barnes didn't make in the last matchup, and Hill to provide some smart defense and excellent ball movement.

But make no mistake. This game will definitely be decided in the paint. The Thunder were somehow able to hold their own when the benches came in, with Hasheem Thabeet having one of his best career games and totally nullifying Ryan Hollins. Moreover, Blake Griffin usually isn't a good barometer for whether the Clippers are winning, but when he's struggling, it's a safe bet that the team is as well. If the Thunder can somehow keep him off the line and away from the rim, there might be a chance at winning this one.

When it's all said and done, the Clippers should have the advantage being at home. But they're playing a back-to-back, and the Durant-Westbrook duo has been on an absolute tear lately. The Clips weren't really able to stop them from going off in the last matchup, so assuming the role players are in order, the Thunder should be able to eek out a victory.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 112, Los Angeles Clippers 109.

If you are looking for tickets to upcoming games, you can find Oklahoma City Thunder tickets here.

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