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. Report: Rockets’ Patrick Beverley to need four months of recovery following season-ending surgery

    Mar 31, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    Patrick Beverley AP

    It had been hoped that Beverley might be available to return later in the postseason.

  2. Thunder say Kevin Durant underwent successful bone graft surgery, will return in 4-6 months

    Mar 31, 2015, 12:40 PM EDT

    Kevin Durant AP

    We already knew Durant was done for the season, but the Thunder have updated his status.

  3. Draymond Green no longer selling ‘Cool story, Glenn’ shirts, may miss next game vs. Clippers

    Mar 31, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    Draymond Green AP

    Green is trying to downplay rivalry with Clippers coach, and is dealing with inflammation in his shins.

  4. Kyrie Irving on his relationship with LeBron James: ‘I don’t want to say it’s not been rocky at all’

    Mar 31, 2015, 11:20 AM EDT

    Golden State Warriors v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

    Things are clicking now in Cleveland, but it wasn’t that way at the beginning of the season.

  5. Flip Saunders (sort of) makes up with Jazz broadcaster after ripping him for saying Timberwolves were tanking

    Mar 31, 2015, 10:40 AM EDT

    Flip Saunders AP

    Interaction ended with a handshake, but it seemed evident Saunders remained displeased.

  6. Lance Stephenson receives DNP-CD in Hornets’ loss to Celtics

    Mar 31, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    Charlotte Hornets v Sacramento Kings Charlotte Hornets v Sacramento Kings

    Hornets were fighting for a playoff spot, but their big free agent acquisition sat on the bench.

  7. Kings considering shutting down DeMarcus Cousins for remainder of season

    Mar 31, 2015, 9:20 AM EDT

    DeMarcus Cousins AP

    Team has nothing left to play for, and Cousins has some nagging injuries.

  8. Jordan Clarkson hits game-winner to give Lakers overtime win over Sixers (VIDEO)

    Mar 31, 2015, 8:40 AM EDT

    Philadelphia 76ers V Los Angeles Lakers Philadelphia 76ers V Los Angeles Lakers

    Great win — except for the fact that it may help cost the Lakers their draft pick this summer.

  9. Kyle Korver scores 11 points in 65 seconds (VIDEO)

    Mar 31, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Milwaukee Bucks v Atlanta Hawks Getty Images

    In a season where Kyle Korver’s three point shooting has at times seemed inhuman this may be his best shooting display.

  10. Blazers sign guard Tim Frazier for the remainder of the season

    Mar 31, 2015, 12:30 AM EDT

    Tim Frazier, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Tim Frazier, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

    He won’t replace Wesley Matthews, but he’s another body.

  11. Report: Sacramento consultant Chris Mullin to take St. John’s head coaching job

    Mar 30, 2015, 6:14 PM EDT

    Chris Mullin AP

    There were rumors he wanted the Sacramento GM job, but George Karl has the power there now.

Featured video

Clippers playoffs? MCW shooting? Your twitter questions answered.
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. H. Whiteside (6383)
  2. K. Durant (5858)
  3. K. Martin (5846)
  4. K. Lowry (5646)
  5. G. Monroe (5303)
  1. D. Wade (5271)
  2. D. Rose (5260)
  3. R. Rubio (5244)
  4. B. Knight (5233)
  5. P. George (5036)