Time: 8:00 PM CST
The Thunder (17-10) started this week with the best record in the Western Conference and an opportunity to prove themselves as a championship contender. An emphatic win against the Jazz on Monday should have set the tone for a great week, but the Thunder ultimately faltered. Last night, OKC’s Northwest Division rival, the Denver Nuggets, handed the Thunder their third loss in four games bringing OKC’s road record to 7-7.
Tonight, the Thunder will face the Clippers (17-11) at home for the third and final time this season. OKC has split its previous two matchups against the Clippers, which makes a win tonight especially important in the event of a tiebreaker at the end of the regular season.
Tip-off is at 8:00 P.M. CST and will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder are 6-point home favorites according to Odds Shark.
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
- Lou Williams: Out — Hamstring
- Luc Mbah Moute: Out –– Knee
- Jerome Robinson: Questionable –– Foot
Clippers: Shaii Gilgeous-Alexander, Avery Bradley, Danilio Gallinari, Tobias Harris, Marcin Gortat
What to Watch For
Where’s Westbrook? Ever since Russell Westbrook’s ankle injury earlier this season, he has not played like the Westbrook we know and love. In the Thunder’s past 5 games, he’s shooting 37.6 percent from the field, 23.3 percent from three, averaging 5.4 turnovers, and making just 54.2 percent of his free throws. Fortunately, he’s made himself useful by averaging 11 assists and 12.6 rebounds in the same span, but the Thunder can’t succeed at a high level without offensive production from Westbrook.
Don’t be too hard on him though. He’s probably got some lingering injury issues, but he’s also adjusting his game this season to help facilitate success for the whole team. He’s currently averaging 9 fewer touches per game compared to last season, about 1 less dribble per touch, and almost a second less with the ball per touch (per NBA.com tracking data). For 10 years, we’ve chastised Russ for what seemed like an unwillingness to cede control; but now that he’s actually doing it, it’s going to look a bit forced and awkward for a while. So, go ahead and delete that “trade Westbrook!” comment you were going to post and let the man live.
Last Meeting. In OKC’s last meeting with the Clippers, they outscored LA 39-10 in the third quarter. The Thunder have been phenomenal in third quarters season, boasting the largest third-quarter margin in the NBA. Paul George and Russell Westbrook each put up 32 points against the Clippers on October 30th and will look to have their way again. Hopefully, Coach Donovan will have some adjustments for defending Clippers forward Danilo Gallinari who posted 27 points in just 26 minutes of play.
Season-high Steve. Despite not knowing Nikola Jokic’s first name, Steven Adams got almost any shot he wanted last night. Adams came out hot scoring 17 points in the first quarter. Despite missing the start of the second quarter with a hand injury, he finished with a season-high 26 points (one point shy of his career high). He also notched a season-high 11 offensive rebounds. If Adams puts up numbers like this again tonight, Clippers center Marcin Gortat (who is already inferior to Adams in almost every way) has no chance. Gortat recorded 7 points and 2 rebounds to Adams’ 18 points and 10 rebounds in their last meeting. It will get interesting, however, if Doc Rivers decides to clog things up with Boban Marjonovic.
Free Throws Are Literally Free. On the off-chance that someone from the Thunder coaching staff is reading this, I just want to highlight how detrimental the Thunder’s abysmal free throw shooting is. Against Denver, OKC went to the line 29 times (14 more times than Denver). OKC missed 12 of their free throws and lost the game by 11. Against New Orleans on Wednesday, OKC went to the line 27 times. They missed 10 of their free throws and lost the game by 6. The Thunder are 27th in the NBA in free throw percentage. This isn’t an isolated issue as the Thunder finished 29th in the league last season in free throw percentage. The Clippers, on the other hand, attempt more free throws than any other team (29.1 per game) and hit 80.4% of them. Don’t be surprised if tonight’s game is decided by who makes their free throws and who doesn’t.