Current Records: Oklahoma City Thunder (56-21), Los Angeles Clippers (55-23)
Last time they met: Los Angeles Clippers (125) defeated Oklahoma City Thunder (117). Clippers lead regular season series 2-1.
A huge Western Conference clash between two teams vying for the #2 seed come playoff time. The Oklahoma City Thunder got back to business as usual, winning quite comfortably over the Sacramento Kings, while the Los Angeles Clippers easily cruised past the Los Angeles Lakers a few days ago.
Both sides are nearing full strength and after sitting out yesterdays game, Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins should be back in the lineup for the Thunder. Kevin Durant‘s streak of 25+ point games ended at 41 with the superstar sitting out the entire 4th quarter (the same way his 30+ point game streak ended) but he should start another one tonight as he has averaged just over 34ppg against the Clippers over their last 6 encounters.
The Clippers are racing towards the playoffs. They are healthy, deep and have all the kinks ironed out. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have been superb and they are being ably supported by the rest of the crew in DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford etc. This should be a tough and tense battle right down to the wire.
Serge Ibaka vs Blake Griffin
There is no love lost between these two fierce competitors and tonight serves and just another chapter in that rivalry. The Thunder are going to need Ibaka to influence the game on both ends of the floor if they want to win. Serge was brilliant yesterday in his defence of the pot but also with his offensive game – he will want (and the Thunder need) a repeat performance. Griffin has put together by far the best and most complete season of his career, carrying the Clippers when Chris Paul was out through injury. He will need to fire and keep the OKC defense honest.
Russell Westbrook vs Chris Paul
Two of the best point guards in the game going head to head, injury free and in form. That is what you want to see and that is what we will be treated to tonight. Both guards have a huge impact on their teams fortunes and whoever can get the upper hand in this head to head matchup will determine the outcome. Westbrook needs to be aggressive but make the right basketball play and pressure Paul every inch of the court. Paul is the guy to get the Clippers into their sets and will need to curb Westbrook’s explosive scoring at the same time.
As previously mentioned, Durant’s streak came to an end but he will be more than eager to start another. He has torched the Clippers this season and exploded for 42 points in the last encounter. He will need to be on the top of his game as the Clippers will throw everything at him and play him very tight and physical. The Clippers share the small forward role between Barnes and Dudley and both these guys will be entrusted with the job of going with KD. How effective they are will impact the result of this game.
This is going to be a classic. These two sides don’t really like each other and the game will be played with a level of intensity, physicality and “chippiness” that is usually saved for the playoffs. The Thunder will want to try and put another game or so space between themselves and the Clippers for the #2 seed in the West, as well as tying the regular season series. The Clippers want to show the Thunder they have their number and put the pressure right back on them as they close the season out. Thunder 110, Clippers 107.