- When: Wednesday, 11 March 2015 at 7:00 PM CST
- Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
A team usually heads into the playoffs in one of two ways. The first is what the Oklahoma City Thunder have experienced in the last few seasons, which is to wrap up a playoff spot with about a month to go, and either play for positioning or begin to rest players for the playoffs. The second scenario is for a team to scrap and claw until the final day of the regular season to get into the playoffs. The Thunder haven’t had to experience the latter scenario since the 2009-10 season. And it appears this season will also fall into the latter scenario. The New Orleans Pelicans continue winning despite a myriad of injuries. The Thunder currently hold the 8th spot by he slimmest of margins (.002), but have an “easier” upcoming schedule.
This is the 3rd and final meeting of the season between these two opponents. Each team won on their respective courts, as the losing team was missing a key player in each game. In the first meeting, the Thunder were without Kevin Durant, and later without Russell Westbrook after he broke his hand in the first half of that game. In the second meeting, the Clippers were without Blake Griffin, who missed the game due to a staph infection in his elbow.
The Los Angeles Clippers are currently 41-23, good for 5th in the Western Conference. Once again, they are one of the top offensive teams in the league, ranking number one in offensive rating, averaging the 2nd most points per game (106) and averaging the 3rd most assists per game (24.4). That part of the game has never been a problem for the Clippers. It’s the other end of the floor where the Clippers struggle. They rank No. 19 in the league in points allowed per game (100) and are the 14th ranked team in terms of defensive rating. Surprisingly, even though they have the best rebounder in the league in DeAndre Jordan (14.5 rebounds per game), they rank 21st in total rebounds per game. The Clippers’ attack is led by the best pure point guard in the league in Chris Paul, who is putting up 18.2 points and 10.2 assists. On the wing, JJ Redick and Matt Barnes provide good release valves for perimeter offense, shooting 42.5% and 36.5%, respectively, from deep. Spencer Hawes has been a bit of a disappointment since signing a contract for the full MLE in the offseason. Nonetheless, his ability to stretch the floor has kept the middle devoid of extra defenders in Blake Griffin’s absence. Up front, DeAndre Jordan has stepped up his production since Griffin went out, averaging 14.6 points and 18.6 rebounds in those 13 games. Injuries to Griffin and Jamal Crawford have muted some of the Clippers’ depth, as they are having to depend on Austin Rivers, Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu, and the newly signed Nate Robinson for bench production.
Probable Starting Line-Ups
Los Angeles Clippers
- PG – Chris Paul
- SG – JJ Redick
- SF – Matt Barnes
- PF – Spencer Hawes
- C – DeAndre Jordan
Oklahoma City Thunder
- PG – Russell Westbrook
- SG – Andre Roberson
- SF – Kyle Singler
- PF – Serge Ibaka
- C – Enes Kanter
1. Pick-n-Roll Defense – I still think Kanter starts, but it would not surprise me if Steven Adams gets the nod in this game. While Kanter has proven himself to be a good 1-on-1 post defender, he struggles mightily in pick and roll situations involving good point guards and competent bigs. Westbrook usually does a good job of staying in front of Paul, so Kanter has that working for him. But Adams has more experience in playing with Westbrook and the positionality that is required to be successful in defending the pick and roll.
2. Bench – The reserves were the main reason the last meeting between these two teams turned into a rout in the Thunder’s favor. The Thunder’s bench scored 62 points, with 3 reserves scoring 15 points or more. The Clippers’ dependence on Austin Rivers and Hedo Turkoglu should benefit the Thunder.
3. Protect Your Hands – Two games against the Clippers this year, two broken hands to a Thunder starter. It was Westbrook in the first meeting and Adams in the 2nd meeting. Rebound with your chest, guys.