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Thunder, sans Waiters, have a go at Clippers

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With Waiters out, can OKC stay at 3rd place in the West?

Oldest joke in the book!
Oldest joke in the book!
W. Bennett Berry

We all know what happened the last time the Thunder played the Clippers. OKC entered the fourth quarter with a 17 point cushion, and ended up losing the game by 5. It's extremely rare for a collapse of that magnitude to happen in the NBA. When you have a blowout that bad, it's impossible to analyze exactly why it happened. I'm reminded of my time at the 2014 Basketball World Championship, when the Brazilian national team lost by 28 points to the Serbian national team in a quarter-final match. Coaches at the world championship were generally explicit in how they described games. But after that game, the Brazilian coach simply described it as a "complete blackout". Nothing went right, so there just wasn't much more to say.

That being said, here's why the Thunder were up in the first place. From Thomas Zhou's recap:

Redick’s injury played a huge part in Clippers’ scoring drought. He had early success finding open looks off his tireless running. He started the game with 4-of-6 shooting. But he went back to the locker room due to an apparent back injury midway through the first quarter. He returned the game in the second but never seemed to regain his early-game stride.

Redick has a clean bill of health for tonight's game, and is coming off of a 22 point performance against the Mavericks. Roberson will have to do all he can to keep the defense up on Redick around screens, and in transition.

As for the Clippers late game stand, a lot of credit has to go to one Chris Paul. Paul had 5 assists in the last eight minutes of the fourth, many of them to DeAndre Jordan. Shooters Wesley Johnson and Jamal Crawford had a field day, with Johnson netting 8 points in the fourth and Crawford netting 6. Prior to the fourth, Johnson was 1 of 10, and Crawford was 2 of 7. Interestingly, some of the Clippers starters had awful performances that night. Jeff Green was completely obliterated by Serge Ibaka, and veteran Paul Pierce only played 15 minutes.

Worst of all though? Cole Aldrich had 8 points on 4 of 5 shooting. Comeon, Enes.

Meanwhile, Westbrook and Durant had a disaster of a fourth quarter. Westbrook went 0 of 6 from the field, while Durant had three turnovers. No one else really stepped up on a significant level.

We know that this Thunder team can beat the Clippers without Blake, handily. The key will be balancing OKC' inside defense with the Clips ability to stretch the floor. If the Thunder go too big (like with the twin towers lineup), they'll be giving up threes. If the Thunder go small, DeAndre Jordan and Cole Aldrich might have a field day. So as long as OKC sticks to their traditional lineup and gives big minutes to Roberson, I feel like they should have the significant upper hand.

The Thunder's bench will also be a big factor. We saw KD successfully play back point guard against the Bucks, netting 8 assists to 5 turnovers on the game. But by and large, Durant failed in his role the five games before that. Tonight, Durant will have even more pressure on him without Dion Waiters. Waiters will miss tonight's game due to the tragic death of his younger brother. Morrow will likely replace Waiters in the rotation, though I'm sure we're all holding out hope for a Cameron Payne appearance.

Chris Paul vs. Westbrook will be a huge factor as well. Here's their career head to head stats:

For the most part, each player is usually able to have a positive impact on the game.

Honestly, I expect the Thunder to wrap up this game by the end of the third quarter. The three seed is on the line, and the Thunder have beaten this Clipper team many times before.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 131, Los Angeles Clippers 112.

What do you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!

2015-16 NBA Season Game 64
@
41-21
(Won 1)

43-20
(Won 1)
March 9th, 2016
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
8:30 PM Central Standard Time
TV: Entertainment Sports Programming Network, Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Fox Sports Network Prime Ticket
Injury Report: Dion Waiters (Out), Blake Griffin (Out), Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (Out)
This Season's Matchups: Dec 21st (W 100-99), Mar 2nd (L 98-103)
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Russell Westbrook
J.J. Redick SG Andre Roberson
Paul Pierce SF Kevin Durant
Jeff Green PF Serge Ibaka
DeAndre Jordan C Steven Adams