Team: Oklahoma City Thunder (21-17) at LA Clippers (17-19)
Time: Thursday, January 4th 2017, at Staples Center (10:30pm ET)
The surging LA Clippers face their first real test during their win streak, against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Both teams were struggling the last time they met, but that isn’t the case tonight.
As well as the Clippers have played, the Thunder have played just as well. The Clippers have won 9 out of their last 13 games, and the Thunder have won 8 out of the last 11 games. The biggest difference is that the Clippers could still be potentially missing 3 starters, while the Thunder are stacked with talent.
Tonight’s game seems like a daunting task for the Clippers, especially after how hard the Thunder crushed the Lakers last night. However, here’s how the Clippers can win:
Play Solid Defense
Despite being stacked offensively, the Thunder still aren’t completely clicking. The team is ranked 19th offensively (103.5 PPG), and they’re the 28th worst passing team (20.7 APG). However, during their 6 game win streak they averaged 110 PPG. The best thing the Clippers can do is play honest defense against the Thunder. Los Angeles needs to stick to their man 1 on 1, and only make smart double teams.
The Thunder don’t move the ball well, and the worst thing the Clippers can do is give OKC any easy ball movement. If the Clippers can’t play solid defense, then they’ll need to stay active on the boards; OKC is fourth in second chance points per game (14.3).
The one thing the Clippers don’t want to do against this Thunder team is turnover the ball. OKC is the: 4th best team at scoring fast break points per game (14.2), 1st in steals per game (9.7), 1st in deflections per game (18.2), 1st in loose balls recovered per game (9.1), and the 3rd best defensive team (100.5). If the Clippers turnover the ball against OKC, the Thunder will score.
The Thunder are so good defensively that it seems inevitable they’ll force some turnovers, but the Clippers need to do their best to limit it. The last time these teams met, the Thunder scored 25 points off of 18 Clipper turnovers; those turnovers can’t happen again.
Prediction: The Clippers need to stay under their turnover average (14) to win this game. If they average 14 or more turnovers, they’ll lose the game.