2012-2013 Game 59 Preview: Thunder Look to Close Out Clippers

It's an all-out brawl for the 2 seed! - Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

Sputter, Sputter, Sputter. Those are the three words I think of when you say the name, "Oklahoma City Thunder".

2012-2013 NBA Season
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The Oklahoma City Thunder (42-16)
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The Los Angeles Clippers(43-18)
March 3rd, 2013
The Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
3:30 PM CST
American Broadcasting Corporation
WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1), KFWB 980 AM
Enemy Blogs: Clips Nation, ClipperBlog
Previous Meetings: Nov 21, Jan 22 (Thunder Lead Season Series 2-0)
Injury Report: Trey Thompkins (Out)
Probable Starters
Russell Westbrook PG Chris Paul
Thabo Sefolosha SG Chauncey Billups
Kevin Durant SF Caron Butler
Serge Ibaka PF Blake Griffin
Kendrick Perkins C DeAndre Jordan

Sputter, Sputter, Sputter. Those are the three words I think of when you say the name, "Oklahoma City Thunder". With the consistently poor performances and bad road losses, it would seem that the team has a long way to go if they're ever to be considered "dominant" again this season.

However, miraculously, the Thunder hold the trump card against one of the best teams in the Western Conference. Sure, one of the wins was against a team that was missing Chris Paul, and the other win was eeked out in Overtime. But they were wins nonetheless, and the Thunder stand a serious chance of closing out the Clippers for the year. What makes the game all that more important is the fact that the Clippers are only a half a game back of the Thunder, and a win tonight would spring them into second place.

In other words, OKC, it's now or never. The playoff push must begin.

The biggest problem looming over the Thunder's head's right now is the inclusion of Derek Fisher in the lineup. In two games, he's managed to score no points. He was also a complete defensive disaster against Denver, prompting Scott Brooks to yank him for good in the second quarter. I wouldn't keep up hope of seeing him in the doghouse, though. Brooks has traditionally given a wide berth to Derek Fisher, even when the going has gotten incredibly tough.

And boy, is the going tough now. Fisher isn't a problem on his own. As I've mentioned countless times, the bigger problem is his out-of-position placement at shooting guard and his pairing with Kevin Martin, who's an atrocious defender. There's just no way a lineup can work with Fisher and Martin together, and that's only going to be more painfully apparent against Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes.

Oh yeah, and while all of this is happening, Ronnie Brewer will be sitting on the bench. Don't mind the fact that he played for the league's best bench unit last season, bringing an unprecedented amount of defense to the Bulls. Also ignore how he played under Jerry Sloan's Jazz for a few successful seasons. No, just leave him on the bench behind Derek Fisher. And if he does come into the game, don't let him touch the ball and just use him as a corner three shooter. The Knicks had a lot of success with that.

Further complicating the problem is the lack of distribution in the Thunder's offense. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are great guys to take over the offense, but they get too absorbed in their own games sometimes and kill the team. On top of that, Kevin Martin's been a rollercoaster of inconsistency, and no other player (sans Ibaka) has really emerged as a viable offensive option.

Honestly, if the Thunder continue to play the way they've played the past month, I just don't see a possible way they could win this game. Their last two wins really relied on them shutting down a marquee scorer. On November 21st, Chris Paul was only 2-14 from the field, and on January 22nd, Jamal Crawford was limited to 6-18.

Anyway, I know I'm being super negative right now, even though the Thunder are still, by all counts, one of the best teams in the NBA. But we all know that they're better than 3rd in the West. If they seriously can't pull out a win tonight and they continue to struggle with the same problems, then this season could be a whole lot shorter than we thought.

Prediction: Los Angeles Clippers 109, Oklahoma City Thunder 98.

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

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