2013-2014 Game 78 Preview: Thunder and Clippers fight for the 2 seed

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Thunder will stay in California to play the Clippers in a fight for the 2 seed in the playoffs.

2013-2014 NBA Regular Season
Thunder_medium_medium
Oklahoma City Thunder (56-21)
@
Clippers_medium_medium
Los Angeles Clippers (55-23)
Wednesday April 9, 2014
Staples Center, Los Angeles
9:30 CDT
ESPN, FS Oklahoma
98.1 FM "The Sports Animal"
Enemy Blogs: Clips Nation
Previous Meetings: Nov 13 (L 103-111), Nov 21 (W 105-91), Feb 23 (L 117-125)
Injury Report: Matt Barnes DTD, Jamal Crawford OUT, Danny Granger OUT, Russell Westbrook DTD
Probable Starters
Chris Paul P Russell Westbrook
J.J. Redick SG Thabo Sefolosha
Matt Barnes SF Kevin Durant
Blake Griffin PF Serge Ibaka
Deandre Jordan C Kendrick Perkins

The scoring streak is over for KD, but OKC added a W to the win column.

Tonight, the Thunder will be facing off with the only team capable of knocking OKC down a peg to the 3 seed in the post season, the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Clippers are a live highlight tape.  With high-flying big men like Deandre Jordan and Blake Griffin, the Clippers are arguably the most entertaining team to watch, so I guarantee highlights in this game.

The Key to Victory

Luckily Jamal Crawford, who destroyed the Thunder single-handedly last meeting, will be out for the remainder of the regular season, per Doc Rivers.  The key to victory does not sit in containing a Crawford outburst.  Neither does it mean shutting down MVP candidate, Blake Griffin. Not even controlling Chris Paul from scoring 20 and assisting over 10 times.  The key to victory is controlling the boards against the league's best rebounder and possibly most improved player, Deandre Jordan.  While OKC ranks 6th to Los Angeles's 15th in rebounds per game, Deandre Jordan averages 13.8 rebounds to Kendrick Perkins' 4.8.  Jordan is explosive and powerful.  He can simply out muscle almost any center in the NBA.  To control Jordan on the boards, I think Brooks needs to do a bit of tweaking in the starting lineup.  Ibaka is the Thunder's leading rebounder and is red-hot defensively.  The only solution to control Jordan is to put Serge on him. The only problem is Kendrick Perkins guarding Blake Griffin....C'MON!!!!  That is why Perry Jones III should get the start and defend Griffin.  Other ways to grab that W is by keeping Chris Paul from scoring 20 and assisting 10 times.  Paul is the only point guard to average a double-double and has the ability to control the game.  If Westbrook does not play, Reggie Jackson will have boatloads of trouble guarding and playing offense on one of the best defensive guards in the league.  Down low, Blake Griffin, an MVP candidate, is on fire.  He has become the most dominant forward in the game.

Justin's Notes

- Durant's streak of 25+ points in consecutive games is finally over.  It was bittersweet.  It would have been great to see KD pass Oscar Robertson but Durant has expressed how he wanted the streak to be over.  It will be interesting to see how the offense works when they aren't focused on getting KD the ball.

- Chris Paul leads the league in steals (2.5) and is one of the quickest defenders.  Westbrook will need to be extra aggressive.

- Darren Collison will be an excellent matchup to watch versus Reggie Jackson.  Both are backups who could start on other teams.

- Blake Griffin is so good, period.

- No, he is really really good.

- Thabo could not have returned at a better time. JJ Redick is a phenomenal shooter and Thabo is a solid perimeter defender.  He should have no problem forcing JJ into bad shots.

- Matt Barnes scored 24 points against OKC last game.  He is a very underrated scorer and before his illness, he was on a scoring tear.  He is overlooked as a breakout performer due to the players surrounding him.

Prediction: Thunder 112 Clippers 109

What do you think of this matchup?  Let us know in the comments!

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