Tip-Off: 9:30 PM CST
Location: Staples Center (Los Angeles, CA)
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
G Chris Paul has been playing some of his best basketball of the season for the Clippers since his return from injury. In those four games, Paul is averaging 17.8 points, 6 rebounds, 12.3 assists, and 2.7 steals. The Clippers are riding a league-best 6-game win streak, and Paul’s contributions over the last four of those have been key. Russell Westbrook has looked a bit lackadaisical on defense at times as of late, but he and the Thunder really stepped it up last night in Sacramento against the Kings. Oklahoma City needs to contain Paul, because he is able to do a number of things on both sides of the ball that can cause problems.
Keys to the Game
- Protect the Perimeter: In all three meetings with the Clippers so far, the Thunder’s ability to defend the three-point shot has played a major impact in the result of the game. In the two wins, Oklahoma City has held Los Angeles to a combined 15/52 (28.8%) from deep, but in the one loss, the Clippers shot an impressive 11/27 (40.7%). The Thunder has done a pretty solid job so far this season at protecting the perimeter, but when they fail to do so, it often results in a loss. The Clippers rank 5th in the NBA at three-point percentage making 37.6% of their attempts. The Thunder needs to make perimeter protection a priority on defense tonight lest the Clippers rack up easy points.
- Invade the Interior: Oklahoma City has excelled at putting up points in the paint all season long, and the ability to score inside has been key to winning two out of three games against the Clippers. In both wins, the Thunder outscored the Clippers in the paint by an average of 9 points, but in the one loss, Los Angeles won the battle by 8 points. With absence of Steven Adams due to concussion, Enes Kanter will see extended minutes, and while his defense is questionable at times, his ability to rebound the ball and score in the paint are without doubt. The Thunder absolutely has to control the inside game in order to come away with a victory tonight.
- Take Over in Transition: Another area where the Thunder has consistently done well is scoring in transition. Oklahoma City ranks 3rd in the league with 17.7 fast break points per game, and in the last meeting with Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve, the Thunder managed to outscore the Clippers 33-0. A large part of that was due to the fact that the Clippers had multiple key injuries, but if Oklahoma City can control the tempo of the game and not commit too many turnovers, then they will be able to get out and run in transition.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.