Skip to content

NBA Playoff Preview: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

May 5, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Clippers Getty Images

REGULAR SEASON RECORDS

L.A. Clippers 57-25 (three seed in West)

Oklahoma City Thunder 59-23 (two seed in West)

Thunder advanced to second round with seven game win over Grizzlies. Clippers advanced to second round with seven game win over Warriors.

KEY INJURIES

Chris Paul is nursing a sore hamstring that is certainly slowing him some but he is playing through it.

Hedo Turkoglu suffered a bruised lower back in Game 5 against the Warriors, it is unclear when he might return.

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possessions)

L.A. Clippers: Offense, 109.4 (1st in NBA); Defense 102.1 (7th in NBA)

Oklahoma City Thunder: Offense 108.1 (7th in NBA); Defense 101 (5th in NBA)

THREE KEYS TO THE SERIES

Chris Paul vs. Russell Westbrook. Two of the best point guards in the game but with radically different styles. Paul is the classic floor general, controlling the tempo and flow, looking to set up his teammates and scoring when he has to. Westbrook uses his exceptional athleticism and aggressive style to put pressure on the defense. Westbrook can be a double edged sword, as we saw against the Grizzlies — in Game 7 (and one) he was poised and getting teammates involved, carving up the defense. But through the middle of the Grizzlies series he shot poorly and just kept on shooting first and asking questions later. We could see that again — in the regular season Westbrook shot just 6-of-23 (0-of-6 from three) when guarded by Paul (stats via NBA.com’s Sports VU cameras). OKC needs facilitator Westbrook in this series. For Westbrook the other key is his defense — if he (with likely help from Thabo Sefalosha) can keep CP3 from conducting the Clippers offense and getting teammates easy buckets and open looks the Thunder will have a key advantage.

Blake Griffin vs. Serge Ibaka. These two have a history. Blake Griffin’s game doesn’t have many holes in it anymore — he has great handles, a midrange game defenders have to respect, plus he still hast that explosive athleticism. Serge Ibaka, perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate, is one of only a handful of defenders who can really make life difficult for Griffin. In the regular season Griffin shot 14-of-35 (40 percent) when Ibaka guarded him. OKC will throw some Steven Adams and Nick Collison at Griffin as well, trying to wear him down. Overall during their regular season meetings Griffin averaged 24.8points a game shooting 49.3 percent against OKC, solid performances close to his regular season averages. Will it be different with playoff matchups? If Griffin wins the battle against Ibaka it would be huge for Los Angeles.

Can the Clippers slow Kevin Durant? Memphis had Tony Allen, who for six games did all you could ask in terms of keeping the soon to be MVP in check. The Clippers lack that kind of lock down perimeter defender. In their four meetings this season Durant averaged 32.5 points per game but shot just 44.1 percent (29 percent from three). During the season Durant made 25-of-30 shots at the rim, but was just 6-of-21 from the midrange and was 7-of-24 from three against LA. Matt Barnes will get the call to start against Durant and KD shot 10-of-22 against Barnes in the regular season (they were matched up for 17 minutes). The Thunder are going to need better games than that out of Durant in this series, or they need a third scoring option to step up.

PREDICTION

This is a toss up. It could go either way. About the only think we can say with certainty is this will go at least six games. I’d like to think the Clippers are moving past the Donald Sterling fiasco and that will not impact them, but you can expect more revalations during the series, and them having to answer more questions about it. On the court the Clippers have better depth and a coach who can use guys like Jamal Crawford and DeAndre Jordan to create matchup problems (Crawford had 36 in one regular season meeting and was a problem all season for OKC). During the season the Thunder were better defensively and that could be their key — if OKC’s defense really steps up (and off it they get some buckets in transition off it) they have the upper hand. It will take the best of the Thunder to win this — Westbrook controlling the tempo and shooting a high percentage, Durant being Durant, a third scoring option stepping up — they have no margin for error.

Thunder in 7.

Latest Posts
  1. Kings rookie Nik Stauskus shares summer NBA experiences (VIDEO)

    Aug 29, 2014, 12:01 AM EDT

    Stauskas is thrilled to have finally made it to the NBA.

  2. Miami Heat top 10 plays of 2014 season (VIDEO)

    Aug 28, 2014, 10:29 PM EDT

    Chris Bosh Chris Bosh

    Wade and Bosh show they can get the job done now that LeBron has moved on.

  3. Supreme Court has a basketball court (photo)

    Aug 28, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    Highest Court in the Land

  4. Damian Lillard first in line as Team USA injury replacement

    Aug 28, 2014, 5:35 PM EDT

    Dominican Republic v United States Getty Images

    Could Trail Blazers guard replace Derrick Rose in World Cup?

  5. Watch the World Cup hype video

    Aug 28, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT

    See Pau Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon and Serge Ibaka dance

  6. Rockets sign undrafted Tarik Black to partially guaranteed two-year contract

    Aug 28, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT

    Tarik Black, Hassan Whiteside, DeAndre Daniels Tarik Black, Hassan Whiteside, DeAndre Daniels

    Black, who played at Kansas and Memphis, could be headed to Houston’s D-League affiliate

  7. David Griffin defends Cavaliers’ pursuit of John Calipari

    Aug 28, 2014, 2:50 PM EDT

    David Griffin David Griffin

    Dan Gilbert, after throwing money at Kentucky coach, settled for management that landed LeBron James and Kevin Love this offseason

  8. Lakers’ physical therapist: Kobe Bryant has highest pain tolerance I’ve ever seen

    Aug 28, 2014, 1:55 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Charlotte Bobcats Getty Images

    Judy Seto doesn’t even bother asking Kobe to rate his pain, because the question is pointless

  9. Dante Exum to come off the bench for Australia in World Cup

    Aug 28, 2014, 12:20 PM EDT

    Dante Exum Dante Exum

    Jazz guard will play behind Matthew Dellavedova and Ryan Broekhoff

  10. Coach K had DeMarcus Cousins as USA’s backup big long before final cuts

    Aug 28, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT

    Dominican Republic v USA Getty Images

    Cousins was long safe and part of the USA rotation.

  11. Report: Kobe Bryant studying Paul Pierce on how to adapt game as he ages

    Aug 28, 2014, 11:05 AM EDT

    Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant

    If you’re trying to age your game gracefully, Pierce is a great model.

  12. Derrick Rose dismisses injury concern after blah showing against Slovenia

    Aug 28, 2014, 9:52 AM EDT

    Derrick Rose, Anderson Varejao, Raulzinho Neto Derrick Rose, Anderson Varejao, Raulzinho Neto

    Rose will probably have to prove it while coming off the bench behind Kyrie Irving in World Cup

  13. World Cup preview: No Durant, no problem USA still one of two teams with legit shot to win gold

    Aug 28, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT

    Team USA Showcase Getty Images

    Doesn’t matter who didn’t show up, the guys that did make Team USA one of two teams with a legit shot at gold.

  14. Report: Leandro Barbosa reaches deal with Warriors

    Aug 28, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    Indiana Pacers v Phoenix Suns Getty Images

    For a third point guard signed for the league minimum, this is a nice pickup. Not thrilling, but nice.

  15. Lakers work out seven NBA veteran free agents beyond Michael Beasley

    Aug 28, 2014, 12:20 AM EDT

    New Orleans Pelicans v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Dexter Pittman, Greg Stiemsma, Daniel Orton, Bobby Brown, Toney Douglas, Ben Hansbrough and Malcolm Lee try out

Featured video

Will LeBron get booed Christmas Day in Miami?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Love (3548)
  2. D. Rose (2809)
  3. K. Bryant (2404)
  4. L. James (2367)
  5. K. Irving (2185)
  1. T. Young (2000)
  2. A. Davis (1941)
  3. R. Allen (1768)
  4. S. Marion (1684)
  5. E. Okafor (1665)