The Oklahoma City Thunder are back at home after playing their past two games on the road with mixed results. Game 3 yielded the Thunder a strong win and the series lead, but Game 4 saw a poor fourth quarter come back to bite them, with the Clippers erasing a 16 point deficit to grab the win and tie the series.
As of now, it is a “best of three” series. Tied at 2-2, the Thunder will be looking for the upper hand and will want to deflate the momentum the Los Angeles Clippers have after their stirring comeback. At Chesapeake Arena, the hometown crowd are as good as an extra player and they will be on the edge of their seat, waiting to erupt and give the Thunder any advantage.
The Thunder just need to keep on doing what they have been doing. They should really be up 3-1 in this series and have outplayed the Clippers for the most part. They need to put the losses behind them and come out with the aggressive mentality that saw them win Games 2 and 3 and put themselves in a position to win Game 4.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have been superb in this series. They have been able to find a great balance between scoring and playmaking and both have impacted the game on the defensive side of the ball. They need to keep this pressure on the Clippers for the full 48 minutes if they want to grab the win. Durant was given a different look in the fourth quarter of the last game, with Doc Rivers using Chris Paul to guard him. Scott Brooks and the Thunder team will want to have figured out a way to exploit this matchup in case they see it again.
Serge Ibaka has done a wonderful job of guarding the paint and making life difficult for the Clippers front court, especially Blake Griffin. However, aside from one super performance in the Thunder’s Game 3 victory, he has largely been under-utilized on the offensive end. If the Thunder can find a way to get Ibaka some more looks, it will create a potent offence that will really test the Clipper defence.
The bench for the Thunder also needs to fire. This series they have been getting solid production from the bench mob, with Reggie Jackson, Steven Adams and Caron Butler all proving their worth. In the last game, Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison torched the Thunder and OKC will not want to let that happen again.
In a very important game, one that can likely alter the course and momentum of the series, the Thunder need to defend their homecourt. They will need to move the ball effectively and shoot efficiently and avoid turnovers. The Clippers will punish you any time you give them extra possessions, so you have to limit your giveaways. A devoted effort to rebounding the basketball and perimeter defense will also help.
The Thunder need to come out aggressively but in control. Take this game on from the opening tip and put the pressure right back on Los Angeles. If they can do that, they might just grab the win and the series lead and be one win away from the Western Conference Finals.
Tags: Oklahoma City Thunder