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Thunder vs Clippers Preview: OKC returns to Staples for back-end match-up with L.A.

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Same town, same arena, same locker room, different opponent.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder return to Staples Center Arena in Los Angeles for the encore performance of their Hollywood back-to-back road show to take on Los Angeles, the Clipper version, at 9:30 p.m. cst.

The game almost has a movie sequel quality to it like Lethal Weapon 2 or 2 Fast 2 Furious. Last night was The Hollywood Back-to-back Road Show 1, The Lakers and the Fall of Complacency and tonight’s match-up The Hollywood Back-to-back Road Show 2, The Clippers and...

The subtitle for part 2 remains unfinished because the script isn’t finished. Only the original is complete and the story that defined its title actually began on January 2nd:

Excerpt of Paul George interview dated 1/2/2018

The national media focused on the questions in this interview about George returning to his hometown and turned them into another frenzy of debates about the Thunder’s All-Star forward’s future. It’s ironic that so many “so-called” expert analysts waste so much time breaking down questions about the soap opera behind the game and not focusing on the answers to the real questions about the game itself.

Rather than worrying about George will do this summer, the important question today is why the Thunder have looked so good against top competition this season while looking so bad against the worst teams in the league. Finally a member of the media scrum asked the big question and Paul George responded. Even though George shied away from calling the Thunder’s issue with sub-par teams the “C-word,” he went on and para-phrased the definition:


1: self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies (When it comes to safety, complacency can be dangerous.)

Switch the word “safety” with “playing in the NBA” in the usage sample of complacency and it is just as correct. When George says there’s “not the same urgency” when the Thunder play weaker teams, that’s complacency.

Any team in the NBA can, and has, beaten the Thunder when they didn’t pay proper respect. The Thunder are far from a finished product — no matter how good they think they are or will become. When the Thunder play soft, they make old Dirk look like young Dirk and rookie wanna-be’s look like All-Stars, and in the end, even when they win, they have just made the job harder.

On the bright side, it is said that the first step to resolving a problem is admitting you have one and Paul George did that. And gauging by the 133-96 beat down the Thunder laid on the lowly Lakers, he wasn’t just speaking for himself.

For the first time this season, the Thunder treated a future lottery team with the respect they deserve and crushed them. By the end of the 3rd quarter, OKC held a 26 point lead which allowed them to rest their starters for tonight’s sequel. Though the result was great, the beginning was not:

In less than 3 minutes, turnovers and missed shots put the Thunder in a ten to nothing hole, but a quick time-out with the Thunder still down 12 to 5 with 8:20 remaining in the 1st quarter changed everything. Bodies started moving, the defense put on the squeeze, the turnovers stopped, and for the next 44 12 minutes the Thunder outscored the Lakers by 49 points.

Now the Thunder return to Staples Arena to write the chapters that will define the subtitle to the sequel. Have the Thunder truly turned the corner and learned some respect for weaker opponents, for keeps this time, or will the easy win over the Lakers lull them back into the false sense of security that has plagued this team all season?

In the 4 minute box score above, there is more to see than the turnovers and missed shots. Granted, we are only looking at the first few minutes of the game, but it should concern any Thunder fan when a 13 of a quarter has passed and Steven Adams doesn’t have a shot attempt.

The Funaki doesn’t demand a starring role in the offense, but it is very clear to anyone paying attention that Steven Adams gets very focused when he gets a chance to help offensively and let us not kid ourselves, a focused Adams is generally a death-blow to opposing offenses.

And it isn’t just Adams. He is just the beginning, the first domino. Once you get the big guy going, before you know it, Roberson or one of the other role players are getting lanes for the lob pass, or wide-open corner 3’s, and then space opens for the All-Stars. It is all connected and there are no short-cuts.

Injury Report

For the Clippers, Patrick Beverly is out for the season, Danilo Gallinari is targeting a February return, and Austin Rivers Achilles issue is listed as day-to-day. As expected, Andre Roberson will miss the game as will Alex Abrines. Abrines has a sore groin and missed the Laker game as well.

After a dazzling shooting display in the second half and a solid overall performance in his first NBA start, look for Thunder rookie Terrance Ferguson to again get the nod as Roberson replacement in the starting rotation.

Blake Griffin returned to the Clipper line-up 3 games ago and the Clippers are winners of 6 of their last 7.


Who do you think will win tonight?

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