|2013-2014 NBA Season|
|November 20th, 2013|
|Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma|
|7:00 PM CST|
|TV: Turner Network Television|
|Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM/640 AM), KFWB News Talk 980 AM|
|Injury Report: Matt Barnes (Out), Maalik Wayns (Out)|
|Previous Matchups: Nov 13 (Clippers Lead Season Series 1-0)|
|Chris Paul||PG||Russell Westbrook|
|J.J. Redick||SG||Thabo Sefolosha|
|Jared Dudley||SF||Kevin Durant|
|Blake Griffin||PF||Serge Ibaka|
|DeAndre Jordan||C||Kendrick Perkins|
|2013/14 Advanced Stats|
|99.8 (9th)||Pace||100.0 (8th)|
|109.0 (2nd)||ORtg||104.1 (8th)|
|106.4 (30th)||DRtg||100.0 (12th)|
The Clippers, having played 2 more games than OKC and in the midst of a back-to-back, are ready to face the fully rested and re-charged Thunder. It seems fitting that they'd have to fly in all the way from Minnesota last night, especially with how the Thunder had to face them without Kendrick Perkins last week. And how the Thunder had to go the entire second half without Serge Ibaka, who was ejected on what some see as a bogus foul call. And how Nick Collison was saddled with five fouls during the fourth. YES, I'm still bitter!
Anyway, if you're unfamiliar with the Clippers, the advanced stats above pretty much tell the story. They play pretty fast and are ridiculously efficient scorers. Their shooting percentages aren't off the charts good like Miami's, but they more than make up for it at the line. Their 29.7 average free throws per game is best in the NBA. This also makes for some very frustrating games where the action is stop and go, because the Clippers will do whatever it takes to get to that line.
The storyline to look for tonight is within the Ibaka-Griffin matchup. We all know that a tussle involving them got Serge Ibaka ejected last Wednesday, and that Serge Ibaka was having a magnificent game at the time with a perfect 6 of 6 from the field. And you probably remember how Serge Ibaka intentionally/unintentionally punched Blake Griffin in the nads last season. But what you didn't know is that the rivalry between the two has merit. Both of them play well over their averages in all categories against each other, and shoot well over 50%.
The key to beating the Clippers lies within your defense. Generally, the Thunder have been decent at guarding the three point line, but their top three lineups (consisting of 4 or more starters) let opposing teams shoot 52.1% from three, which can be a serious problem when Redick and Dudley are ready to accept shots. So, generally, the Clips are going to get their due there.
However, the paint is something that's much more controllable. The Thunder really struggled in the third quarter of last Wednesday's game when they were forced to give serious minutes to Hasheem Thabeet and Ryan Gomes, both of whom aren't exactly known for their defensive dominance. Furthermore, the lack of Ibaka's offensive firepower really hurt the team as the game tumbled towards its' ultimate conclusion.
On the other side of the ball, LA's atrocious paint defense has killed them all year. It's basically forced them to rely entirely upon their offense and a fast pace to win them games. The reason? Well DeAndre Jordan's awareness in the post is laughably bad, despite his athleticism. On top of that, the Clippers have no bench big man that they can consistently go to, which speaks for itself.
Another factor that could come into play is turnovers. The Thunder had a whopping 27 of them last Wednesday, normally averaging only 16 per game. Obviously a few of these came with the increased pace, but a lot of them came in the fourth quarter, when the offense stagnated. The fault doesn't lie with any one individual here, but in general it would be helpful for the Thunder to not play so recklessly, and try to get the Clippers to slow down.
The Thunder were also destroyed on the boards during last Wednesday's game, but I wouldn't chalk that up to anything but their total lack of bigs.
In any case, tonight's game should be a fun one, and I'll go out on a limb and say that the Thunder are able to pull this one out, given the circumstances. Really, the Thunder have the advantage when it comes to this matchup, and I don't see any reason why they aren't capable of sweeping the rest of this season series. Of course, you can never underestimate the Clippers....
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 110, Los Angeles Clippers 102.
How do you think tonight's game will go? Vote in the poll, post a comment!