OKC have worked their way to fourth place in the west on the back of four successive victories, but they are still just 1.5 games from eighth and 2.5 games from tenth. On Tuesday, they used a 29-19 final quarter to catapult them to a 12-point victory over the Hawks. Russell Westbrook had a 32-point triple-double in that game, while Jerami Grant came off the bench to contribute 20 points.
One team ready to pounce should OKC lose their way is the Clippers, who sit in ninth place with a 37-30 record. They put in a gallant performance in Houston yesterday, leading at half-time only to go down 96-101. Tobias Harris played one of his best games for the franchises, contributing 29 points and eight rebounds.
Three keys to the game
OKC’s home form – The Thunder have been terrific at home this season, splitting their 35 games at Chesapeake Arena 24-11. They have won their past three there, and ten of their last 14. The Clippers will need to put in an extremely strong performance to challenge the Thunder in Oklahoma City.
Can the Clippers perform on back-to-backs? – So far this season, the answer to that question has been a resounding no. This is their 12th back-to-back for the season, and in their previous 11, they are 3-8 on the second leg. Of these three wins, one was against Phoenix, one against the Kings, and one against Orlando. Not exactly Thunder caliber teams.
Steven Adams’ health – Thanks largely to the big Kiwi, the Thunder are comfortably the best offensive rebounding side in the league, grabbing 27.7% of available boards at that end of the floor. Adams grabs 5.0 offensive rebounds per game, second only to Andre Drummond, and against a Clippers team which is 27th in the NBA for defensive rebounding, he will be an enormous help for the Thunder if he recovers from a hip contusion in time.
Matchup to watch
Russell Westbrook vs Lou Williams – Westbrook might not be in MVP contention this season, but he is still one of the best players in the game and is capable of single-handedly taking a game away from his opposition. This season, Westbrook is averaging 25.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, 10.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game. He has racked up three triple-doubles in succession, and has been reasonably efficient in this time, shooting at 48.1% from the floor and averaging just 3.7 turnovers.
His opponent in this game, Williams, is having a pretty handy year himself. Williams is averaging 23.0 points per game to go with 5.4 assists, both of which are comfortably career highs. His form has been a little sporadic of late, but if he puts in a good performance against Westbrook it will be a huge boost for the Clippers.
Oklahoma City Thunder predicted starting lineup
PG – Russell Westbrook | SG – Corey Brewer | SF – Paul George | PF – Carmelo Anthony | C – Steven Adams
Los Angeles Clippers predicted starting lineup
PG – Lou Williams | SG – Austin Rivers | SF – Tobias Harris | PF – Sindarius Thornwell | C – DeAndre Jordan
George has been unstoppable in the two games between these sides this season. In the first, he racked up 42 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals to lead his Thunder to victory. The second saw him shoot 12-for-16 from the field on his way to 31 points. In these two games, he shoots 65.8% from the floor, and has connected on 9-for-15 3-point attempts. He has been extremely damaging, and without his presence the Thunder would probably not have won both of these games.
The Clippers have been given a six-point head start by oddsmakers, and while they would be a good chance to cover this under normal conditions, they will struggle considering they are on the second leg of a road back-to-back. The Thunder have a couple of extra days break and have not had to travel much recently, and should be able to cover this line.
The Clippers’ attempts to work their way into a playoff spot will be thwarted by the in-form Thunder. Oklahoma City deserve to end the season with a relatively high seed, and a win here will help them to do so.
George has been a little out of sorts lately, but against a team which he clearly enjoys playing against, he will bounce back to score 30 points. His partner in crime, Westbrook, will also be dominant – expect him to notch up a fourth consecutive triple-double.
All of this will be too much for the Clippers, particularly if Adams gets up. The Thunder will run out 112-101 victors on their home floor.
The game will be broadcast locally on Fox Sports Oklahoma and Fox Sports Prime Ticket. Tip-off is at 8pm ET.
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