Round 2 Game 2 Clippers-Thunder preview: Let's do that again!

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers thrashed the Thunder in Game 1 to take an early lead in the series. Will they be satisfied with stealing one game, or will they take complete control of the series with another road win?

2014 NBA Playoffs
First Round
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vs

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57-25

59-23
Game 2 - May 7th, 2014, 6:30 PM
Chesapeake Energy Arena
TNT, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Series Schedule
The Clippers lead the series 1-0
Game 1 - Mon May 5 in Oklahoma City, Clippers 122-Thunder 105
Game 2 - Wed May 7, 6:30 p.m., TNT, Oklahoma City, Chesapeake Energy Arena
Game 3 - Fri May 9, 7:30 p.m., ESPN, Los Angeles, STAPLES Center
Game 4 - Sun May 11, 12:30 p.m., ABC, Los Angeles, STAPLES Center
Game 5*  Tue May 13, Time TBD, TNT, Oklahoma City, Chesapeake Energy Arena
Game 6*  Thu May 15, Time TBD, ESPN, Los Angeles, STAPLES Center
Game 7 * Sun May 18, Time TBD, TNT, Oklahoma City, Chesapeake Energy Arena
* if necessary
Win-Loss Breakdown
21-9 East 23-7
36-16 West 36-16
34-7 Home 34-7
23-18 Road 25-16
25-18 .500+ 27-16
32-7 .500- 32-7
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Russell Westbrook
J.J. Redick SG Thabo Sefolosha
Matt Barnes SF Kevin Durant
Blake Griffin PF Serge Ibaka
DeAndre Jordan C Kendrick Perkins
Key Reserves
Darren Collison PG Derek Fisher
Jamal Crawford SG Reggie Jackson
Jared Dudley SF Caron Butler
Danny Granger PF Nick Collison
Glen Davis C Steven Adams
Advanced Stats 2013-2014 Regular Season
98.39 (7th of 30) Pace 98.53 (6th of 30)
109.4 (1st of 30) ORtg 108.1 (7th of 30)
102.1 (7th of 30) DRtg 101.0 (5th of 30)
Injuries/Other
Hedo Turkoglu (back) out
None

The Back Story (The teams split the season series 2-2):

Date Venue Final

11/13/13 Los Angeles Clippers 111, Thunder 103 Recap Box
11/21/13 Oklahoma City Thunder 105, Clippers 91 Recap Box
02/23/14 Oklahoma City Clippers 125, Thunder 117 Recap Box
04/09/14 Los Angeles Thunder 107, Clippers 101 Recap Box

The Big Picture:

The Clippers survived a terrible week in which their owner embroiled them in controversy. They played one game in which they were completely distracted and disoriented, and two more where they were drained both physically and emotionally. When they survived that experience to advance to the next round, they rejoiced not just at the win, but at the opportunity to start fresh. And boy did they take advantage of that opportunity. For the second time this post season (the first being Game 2 against the Warriors) they looked like the team we've thought they could be all season. Learning a new system, injuries, and then scandal kept them from being that team. Is it possible that they can be that team consistently for the rest of these playoffs? The Thunder (and the rest of the league for that matter) hopes that they won't, but maybe they can. The Clippers played free and easy, while executing their game plan on both ends of the court on Monday night. They invoked Lawler's Law by scoring 100 points before the end of the third quarter and led by as many as 28 points before calling off the dogs. Everything they did on offense worked, and their defensive game plan to make someone other than Durant or Westbrook beat them looks like a winner. Chris Paul won't make eight straight three pointers again, but if the Clippers can get as many open looks in Game 2 as they did in Game 1, they'll win easily enough.

The Antagonist:

The Thunder were a mess on Monday. It's hard to say why. I know they can't be that team -- their record and their statistical profile say otherwise. Of course I'm the guy that criticized them all summer and predicted that they'd take a big step back this season. It's tempting to say "I told you so." But if they were really as bad as we saw on Monday, they wouldn't have won 59 games. Right? From the OKC perspective, they know that an ugly Game 1 loss is still just one loss -- there are no style points. They were behind to the Grizzlies in their first round series (as indeed the Clippers were behind the Warriors) and there's a long way to go. They're going to try to forget Game 1 and to prove that it was an anomaly not indicative of who they are. We'll see.

The Subplots

  • Series preview. Be sure to revisit the series preview which contains some of the overarching points for the series. I won't repeat those points here.
  • Keys to the series. Be sure to check out Mark Travis' Keys to the Series post for his insights. Mark will be attending all of the games in Oklahoma City covering it for Clips Nation, so he'll be bringing us on site reporting from Oklahoma throughout the series. His Game 1 analysis is excellent.
  • Clips Nation viewing party. There's a Game 2 viewing party tonight at Joey's Smokin' BBQ in Torrance. Citizen pegitom owns Joey's and loves to host Clippers fans. The big screens will be showing the game, the volume will be up, the staff will be decked in Clippers gear and the sauce will be spicy (or not if you prefer). There's discounts on all regular priced food for all Clipper fans. Yes it's an early tip and a challenge to get there on a Wednesday in LA traffic, but make the effort. You won't be disappointed.
  • Two great games. The Clippers are coming off two of the great wins in franchise history in succession, a Game 7 win at home against the Warriors and an emphatic road win over the Thunder to open the conference semi-finals. Bear in mind that the Clippers were swept by the Spurs two years ago and lost in the first round last year, so this was their first win in the second round in eight years -- and it's the first time the Clippers have ever led a conference semi final series (the Braves had a 1-0 lead over the Bullets in 1975). It's not been a great history, but this team is re-writing it.
  • MVP. To no one's surprise, Kevin Durant was named the league's MVP yesterday. He'll receive his award before tonight's game. Blake Griffin came in third in the voting and Chris Paul finished seventh. So this series features three of the top seven players in the league, at least according to the MVP voters. No wonder everyone is so excited about it.
  • A theory. Is it possible that the Thunder won regular season games based solely on talent? Is it possible that given a chance to thoroughly game plan against that talent, against a team that is so dependent offensively on just two players, that they become not just more vulnerable but significantly so? Odds are that the Thunder will bounce back strong in Game 2 and that Game 1's dreadful performance will become a distant memory, an outlier not at all indicative of reality. If not, if the Clippers dominate this series, this might be as good an explanation as any.
  • The OKC Thuner. Call them the Thuner, because there's no D. The Clippers absolutely vivisected the OKC defense on Monday night in Game 1. As J.A. Sherman of Welcome to Loud City told me via email, the Thunder looked as if they'd literally never seen the middle pick and roll before -- despite the fact that it's page one of the scouting report on the Clippers. OKC had the third highest rated defense in the Western Conference this season. It's actually what they've done best this season as a unit, their offense being more or less predicated on the simple greatness of Kevin Durant. They'll probably figure something out, or maybe just wake up from a bad dream. But in Game 1 they were clueless -- and even more clueless coming out of halftime, which certainly doesn't bode well for them.
  • Paul's explosion. Chris Paul scored 32 points on 14 shots in Game 1 -- a true shooting percentage somewhere in the neighborhood of 114%. As it happens, CP3 had a game earlier this season in which he scored 38 points on 14 shots, but he also took 11 free throws in that game. Suffice it to say that while Paul is not known for his scoring, Monday's performance was among the most efficient scoring outbursts in the history of the NBA, let alone in a playoff game. Paul won't make 8-9 from deep again tonight, but he's been red hot from behind the line, and you can bet he's going to keep shooting if they keep giving him that shot.
  • Who steps up for the Thunder? The Thunder have the MVP. They have a healthy Russell Westbrook, who was second team All NBA last season. They have a very solid player in Serge Ibaka. All three of those guys played fine on Monday, while the Clippers gave the first two a LOT of defensive attention. No one else on the Thunder was even mediocre, and there's reason to question if they can be. The Clippers strategy is going to be to make someone else beat them -- and right now it looks like a winning strategy.
  • Rebounding. As great as everything was on Monday there was one dark cloud in Game 1 -- the Clippers got killed on the boards. The Clippers got 25 defensive rebounds while the Thunder got 15 offensive rebounds; that's a pretty ridiculous percentage of OKC misses that they got back. Forcing 17 turnovers while only committing eight helped to mask the problem with extra Clipper possessions, but if the shooting percentages even out the Clippers can't win while getting hurt so badly on the glass.
  • Connections. Blake Griffin was born and raised in Oklahoma near Oklahoma City and played his college ball at OU in Norman. Thunder coach Scott Brooks was on the Clippers for about a month in January 1999, though he never got into a game. Former Clipper Ryan Gomes began the season with the Thunder, while former OKC player Byron Mullens began the season with the Clippers, but both are now gone. In Gomes' place is another recent Clippers small forward, Caron Butler. Chris Paul played his first two seasons in Oklahoma City while the Hornets were displaced from New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook were teammates at UCLA, where Collison started at the point pushing Westbrook to shooting guard. Doc Rivers coached Kendrick Perkins at Boston, where they won a title together and might have won another had Perkins not torn his ACL in the playoffs.
  • Get the OKC perspective at Welcome to Loud City.
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