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. Dwight Howard says James Harden is the left handed shooter ever

    Aug 31, 2015, 11:09 PM EDT

    James Harden AP

    Does Harden even make the all left-handed starting five?

  2. Fast Break notes: Baron Davis is honest about the draw of the NBA

    Aug 31, 2015, 8:31 PM EDT

    The 2015 ESPYS - Arrivals Getty Images

    We have some Riley Curry news. You know you want to click now.

  3. Report: Bucks get Westbrook (not that one)

    Aug 31, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    Miami Heat Scrimmage Getty Images

    Charlie Westbrook reportedly signs with Bucks

  4. Report: Veteran forward Chuck Hayes agrees to deal with Clippers

    Aug 31, 2015, 6:15 PM EDT

    Toronto Raptors v New York Knicks Getty Images

    The Clippers add more depth. It’s been a good offseason for Doc Rivers.

  5. Report: Suns have no intention to trade unhappy Markieff Morris

    Aug 31, 2015, 5:02 PM EDT

    Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris AP

    The Suns have no leverage now even if they wanted to move him, and apparently they don’t.

  6. Hassan Whiteside can touch the rim without jumping (photo)

    Aug 31, 2015, 4:25 PM EDT

    Charlotte Hornets v Miami Heat Getty Images

    You don’t even need to pump up his sneakers

  7. Report: Second-rounder Sir’Dominic Pointer won’t sign with Cavaliers

    Aug 31, 2015, 3:27 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks Getty Images

    Cleveland can watch Pointer develop without having to pay him

  8. Report: Thunder sign Talib Zanna

    Aug 31, 2015, 1:33 PM EDT

    2015 NBA D League Showcase Getty Images

    Don’t expect him to make the regular-season roster this season

  9. Report: Nick Young actually inquired about playing for Australia

    Aug 31, 2015, 12:43 PM EDT

    Nick Young, Iggy Azalea AP

    Could Lakers wing play in the 2016 Olympics?

  10. Report: Tristan Thompson won’t accept less than max from Cavaliers, his agent thinks Raptors will offer it next summer

    Aug 31, 2015, 11:43 AM EDT

    Toronto Raptors v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

    Thompson might leverage the max from Cleveland, but it probably shouldn’t be because of this Toronto threat

  11. Canada cuts Olivier Hanlan, finalizes roster FIBA Americas with nine NBA players

    Aug 31, 2015, 10:26 AM EDT

    Andrew Wiggins, Cory Joseph AP

    By dropping an NBA draft pick, Canadians show how far they’ve come

  12. Nigeria beats Angola to win AfroBasket, qualify for Rio Olympics

    Aug 30, 2015, 10:16 PM EDT

    Olympics Day 10 - Basketball Getty Images

    Al-Farouq Aminu is headed back to the Olympics.

  13. Sneaky good summer move: Spurs trade for Ray McCallum

    Aug 30, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT

    Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    We’ll all look back at the McCallum trade and say “it’s the Spurs doing Spurs things again.”

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Rose (2744)
  2. K. Irving (2107)
  3. A. Davis (1801)
  4. K. Bryant (1594)
  5. L. James (1574)
  1. T. Thompson (1297)
  2. K. Durant (1276)
  3. B. Jennings (1201)
  4. J. Clarkson (1144)
  5. G. Davis (1049)