4 min read

Thunder vs. Clippers: Pregame Primer

Thunder vs. Clippers: Pregame Primer



Thunder (18-9, 5-6 road) vs. Clippers (16-12, 10-5 home)

TV: NBATV/FS Oklahoma
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 9:30 PM CST

Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)

  • Offensive Rating: Thunder – 108.2 (2nd), Clippers – 103.9 (6th)
    Defensive Rating: Thunder – 99.1 (8th), Clippers – 101.6 (15th)

The Thunder won by 40 in their last game. Yay!!!!! Here’s the thing when it comes to blowout victories against bad teams: they don’t prove anything. The Thunder, as a better team were supposed to win. And the Lakers, as the inferior team with their best player missing, were supposed to suck. Mission accomplished. Can there be positives taken away from the victory? Of course, but they always come with the caveat that they were facing one of the worst teams in the league. Cameron Payne looked good in his nine and a half minutes of action against Marcelo Huertas. The Russell Westbrook/Steven Adams pick-n-roll game is becoming a thing. And Enes Kanter played a great game against the deteriorating carcass that used to be Brandon Bass.

What the Thunder can take from that game moving forward with the confidence with which they quickly dispatched the Lakers. The starting line-up, regardless of what the eye-test says about Andre Roberson, continues to be one of the best 5-man line-ups in the league. And the Thunder were 4 points away from carrying an 8-game win streak into Los Angeles. The Thunder have solidified their stance as one of the teams in the tier right below the Warriors and the Spurs. That tier probably features the Cavs and the Thunder, with the Clippers having an outside shot of being considered in that tier. Which is what makes this game so important. If the Thunder want to remain in the tier below the top two teams in the league, then they need to win the games against the likes of the Cavs and Clippers.

This is the first of four meetings this season between the Thunder and Clippers. The Clippers won 2 of the 3 meetings against the Thunder last season. The Thunder’s lone victory in that series, though, will be forever known as Mitch McGary’s coming out party. In that game, he registered 19 points and 10 rebounds, as Blake Griffin sat out with an elbow infection.

The Opponent

The Clippers come into the game with a 16-12 record. They have 3 losses in their last 6 games, all to perennial playoff teams (the Bulls, Rockets, and Spurs). In two of the games, the Clippers either led or were tied in the fourth quarter. And that has been there  M.O. this season against top competition. The Clippers stay with the opponent for most of the game, but fail to make the plays at the end of the games to win them.

The core of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, JJ Reddick, DeAndre Jordan, and Jamal Crawford has seen their fair share of battles in the past 5 seasons, but unlike the Grizzlies, Thunder, Rockets, and Spurs, they have failed to advance past the 2nd round of the playoffs. Their biggest weakness this season has been the same weakness they’ve had since Chris Paul arrived in LA five seasons ago: a weak bench. With Crawford aging, the brunt of the bench scoring has gone to Austin Rivers and Josh Smith, who can be explosive, but can also be extremely inconsistent. Rivers is doubtful for this game with an ankle injury. This year, the Clippers were hoping that Lance Stephenson, Wesley Johnson, and Paul Pierce would help out with the wing depth. But that has not been the case, so far.

3 Big Thing

1.Perimeter Defense

Like most other Western Conference opponent that give the Thunder problems, the 3-point shot is usually the galvanizing difference that separates the opponent from the Thunder. The Clippers have 6 rotation players that shoot 35% or more from 3-point territory. If the Thunder don’t defend the perimeter, they could be shot out of the game by halftime.

2. Kevin Durant

One of the things the Clippers have tried to get is a Durant-stopper. It used to be Jared Dudley. Then it was Matt Barnes. Now, its Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Lance Stephenson. Same shhh, different season. Feast young man, feast.

3. Make sure the Clippers have the lead in the 4th quarter

Almost guarantees the Thunder victory if this happens.

Slump-buster (The opposing player most likely to either break out of a slump or have a career game):

Jamal Crawford – For all intents and purposes, this has been a down year for Crawford. He’s shooting just 31.5% from deep and 36.3% overall. He’s still averaging nearly 26 minutes per game, but is only putting up 11.5 points per game. Which, of course, means, he’ll likely go off for about 25 tonight.

My Bad

In the last preview, I had my Steve Harvey moment, by dedicating most of the preview to a player who wasn’t even suiting up for the game. My bad, y’all.