The Oklahoma City Thunder have split the first two games of their second round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers and now face the task of trying to grab 1 or even 2 wins on the road at the Staples Center.
Home court advantage is something that you don’t want to give up when you have worked so hard during the season to secure it, but after a brutal and draining first round playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Thunder came out flat in their first game against the Clippers and got run out of their own building. They ensured it wouldn’t happen again with a solid victory in Game 2 behind two terrific performances from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but now they hit the road and head over to the City of Angels – needing at least one win.
Wrestling back homecourt advantage won’t be easy, but it isn’t impossible either. The Thunder have shown time and time again that they are able to win anywhere and a game 6 road victory at the Grind House will give them confidence ahead of Games 3 and 4. They also split the two road games against the Clippers in the regular season, winning their most recent trip there late in the season. It will take another terrific performance to get the job done though and the Clippers will want to grab the series lead and a win for their fans.
The Oklahoma City Thunder started slowly against the Clippers in Game 1 allowing Chris Paul and the gang to quieten the Thunder crowd. This has a big effect on the game and puts things back to neutral pegging. The Thunder will need to start as well as they did in Game 2 to take the buzz out of the Clipper crowd and steal away any momentum or energy that the Staples Center fans might be trying to provide. OKC would also love to keep the “highlight plays” to a minimum as these are what gets the crowd pumped up and loud.
The Thunder’s best chance would be to grab a Game 3 win – the first on the road. This will ensure that momentum stays with OKC, the series lead stays with OKC and that the pressure is firmly placed back on the Clippers. If you can keep your noses in front all series long, it makes the task of progressing easier and makes it difficult for the trailing team to get back in it. However, the Thunder were able to rally and come from 3-2 down against the Grizzlies – so nothing is impossible.
After netting the second best record in the league, the Thunder have earned the right to home court advantage. Chesapeake Arena is a daunting place for anyone to play and if the Thunder can grab on (or both) games in Los Angeles, then they head back home to a hungry and hyped up crowd which could just prove the difference in the series.