A mere 9 days after defeating the mighty Los Angeles Clippers on the road, the Oklahoma City Thunder must now face them again at home. OKC was able to pull out a win using their stellar defense. Griffin was contained by the stout rookie, Sabonis. 7 of 21 is definitely not desirable for him. Adams held Jordan to 8 points. Oladipo blanketed Redick, keeping him to just 25% shooting. The Clipper bench had a generally positive performance, and Kanter was held to low numbers. But it’s reassuring to see OKC’s starters so dominant. If OKC is to win comfortably, they’ll have to get more offensive production from Kanter, Oladipo, Adams....anyone, really. And Westbrook could probably do better than 10 turnovers.
It’s shaping up to be the most serious title run yet for this experienced Clipper team. The knock on the Clippers has never been their gaminess. Rather, the Clipper bench has always struggled to produce. Furthermore, injuries to one player or another always seem to stop the Clippers at the most inopportune times. But this year, the veterans are healthy and more than familiar with each other. And the new additions of Marreese Speights and Raymond Felton appear to be filling their roles perfectly. Both Speights and Feltons have had good performances.
Most importantly, the Clippers have won all of their games by a large margin. Besides the one the Clippers played against the Thunder. It’s nothing revolutionary. It’s just that the Clippers know how to score, and have been doing this for a long time. The majority of NBA teams re-worked themselves over the off-season with the Durant-pocalypse, so the Clippers are benefitting. And it’s worth noting that the Clippers are scoring and rebounding machines. And when you get the Clips engaged in a fast pace, than Paul’s excellent passing, Redick and Crawford’s shooting, and Griffin and Jordan’s athleticism really come into play.
It was an unreal start to the season. And then, things crashed back down to earth. We all knew that the Raptors were a good team, boasting two all-stars. But with Valanciunas out and two inexperienced players manning center, you’d think OKC would get more post scoring. But the Raptors know how to pack the paint, and Westbrook just could not get any shots to fall. Oladipo struggled near the rim. Moreover, nobody on the Thunder bench reached double-digits. Even cameos from Morrow and Singler weren’t enough to charge the Thunder offense.
On the other side, DeMar DeRozan was the man of the hour. DeRozan was King of the two pointer, receiving the ball on the block and doing whatever he wanted with his defender. DeRozan even had two dunks. Moving forward, OKC is going to have to allow DeRozan’s three while smothering him near the rim. But DeRozan is an example of a physical, 2 pointer focused guard who had a 37 point night against OKC. It’s entirely possible that Chris Paul could mirror that type of production on a good night.
It’s all about defense tonight. Let Sabonis go to work on Blake Griffin, using generations of basketball knowledge. Watch Adams sacrifice his big body to keep Jordan away from the basket. Hope Westbrook can annoy Paul just enough. And let Oladipo cover shots first with Redick. If OKC does that, secures the boards, and shares the ball, they stand a reasonable chance of winning. But it’s not guarantee, what with OKC’s lack of shooting and bench production.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 105, Los Angeles Clippers 102.
What do you think of tonight’s game? Drop a comment and let us know!
Injuries: Brice Johnson (Out), Cameron Payne (Out)
Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time
Place: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: NBATV, FSOK, PT