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Clippers-Thunder Preview: Welcome Back to Loud City

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It's been nine long months since last season ended. But heading back to the place where life was taken from the Clippers by force, we're certain to see old wounds reopen anew.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
2014/2015 NBA Regular Season
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vs
thunder logo
33-18

25-25
February 8th, 2015, 10:00 AM PST
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
ABC
Win-Loss Breakdown (2013-2014)
13-11 East 12-8
20-7 West 13-17
20-7 Home 14-8
13-11 Road 11-17
12-14 .500+ 9-18
21-4 .500- 16-7
6-4 L10 5-5
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Russell Westbrook
Jamal Crawford SG Andre Roberson
Matt Barnes SF Kevin Durant
Spencer Hawes PF Serge Ibaka
DeAndre Jordan C Steven Adams
Advanced Stats
96.2 (14th) Pace 97.1 (9th)
110.4 (1st) ORtg 101.4 (19th)
104.0 (17th) DRtg 100.9 (10th)
Injuries/Other
Blake Griffin (elbow) — out
Kendrick Perkins (suspension) — out
J.J. Redick (back spasms) — out

Hedo Turkoglu (illness) — day-to-day

Clippers lead 2014-2015 season series over Thunder; 1-0
Date
Venue
Final
Clips Nation
ESPN
10/30/2014
Los Angeles
Clippers 93, Thunder 90
Recap
Box Score

Where are We?

The Clippers are currently mired in their worst stretch under Doc Rivers, losing three games in a row for the first time during his tenure. Dating back to New Orleans, they've lost four of five, and apart from a clinical blowout in San Antonio, the team hasn't looked quite like what we've wanted them to be. Los Angeles is coming off a pair of embarassing blowouts on back-to-back nights on national TV, in addition to a loss in Brooklyn where they gave up an eight point lead in ln the final minute of the game.

That's the negative spin on thing. To put things into perspective, the sky-is-falling crowd is still way out of its depth here. So the Clippers have looked mortal (at best) recently, it's not a big deal. Take a look at the rest of the West and show me one team outside of Golden State (and maybe Memphis, who themselves went through a four-game losing streak earlier in the year) who's looked consistently excellent. Just last night the Blazers gave up an 11-point lead within the last three minutes of the game, from which point they were on the receiving end of a 22-2 run stretching deep into the overtime period. The team who beat them, Dallas, has well-publicized issues (which we'll likely see firsthand tomorrow night) of their own — same goes for Portland, San Antonio, Phoenix, etc.

Let's look at the facts — the Clippers are currently on an extensive Grammy roadtrip (8 games in 13 days), the longest continuous trip in the NBA this season. Their schedule is a gauntlet, and they might be in the toughest part of it right now — four games in five nights, facing four contenders on the road in Cleveland, Toronto, and now Oklahoma City and Dallas. That sort of itinerary could drive any team mad, let's be real.

And it's even more difficult when multiple players are on the floor working through various ailments and maladies. J.J. Redick is out indefinitely with an injury that's apparently "been described as whiplash," per Dan Woike. Meanwhile, other members of the team are also suffering:

Blake Griffin, who led the Clippers with 26 points, had ice on his right elbow after the game. Like DeAndre Jordan and Hedo Turkoglu, Griffin was also fighting a stomach virus.

"We’re going through one of those stretches," Matt Barnes said. "I told the guys, ‘People aren’t feeling sorry for us. They see blood in the water, they’re going to try to kill us.’"

Unfortunately, today's game will also be nationally televised, and it wouldn't be shocking to see a ragged Clippers team bulldozed once again. Let's just keep our heads about us, even as the rest of the basketball world goes crazy.

EDIT: Blake Griffin will not play today — he's out indefinitely after surgery to remove a staph infection in his right elbow. It sounds as though he'll be out for certain until at least the All-Star Break (Lillard?), and the Clippers have to hope he'll get back on the floor soon.

Where are They?

It's looking more and more like a lost season for Oklahoma City. They're still only three games out of eighth place, but they've shown very little consistency and continue to lag behind both Phoenix and New Orleans.

Speaking of New Orleans, the Pelicans came into the Thunderdome Friday night and knocked off OKC with a buzzer-beating double-clutch three-pointer from Anthony Davis, who is forcing his way into the MVP discussion, standings be damned. And speaking of MVPs... Russell Westbrook has been killing it so far in February. After notching a triple-double v. Orlando, he broke 45 points in each of his last two games (including a ridiculous 48-9-11 line in the latter), becoming the first player since Kobe eight years ago to accomplish that feat in consecutive games.

This hasn't translated into wins yet, though. OKC's only gone 5-5 over their last ten, and they've only had one winning streak of more than two games (four in a row) since mid-December. Looking forward, their schedule tilts very home-friendly, so there's still plenty of time to catch up.

Of note — Kendrick Perkins will miss today's game after being suspended for headbutting Tyreke Evans in the previous game. Meanwhile, Clipper-hating stud Perry Jones III has not been able to match his dominating performance in the LA season opener, and he's reportedly been injured recently, not seeing the floor in his last few games.

Bad Memories

I wrote close to 5000 words about Game 5 yesterday, and I'd stongly encourage you to go read it if you've got a tough constitution and a bit of a masochistic streak. Because of all that, I'll try to keep this preview on the shorter side.

In any case, this is the first game in the heartland since that fateful May 13th. The Clippers might have overcome their internal demons, but the thought of that night certainly continues to haunt many of them.

Connections

Blake Griffin and Ekpe Udoh are both from Oklahoma, while Chris Paul played in Oklahoma City when he first entered the league, living there for two years and developing regional ties. It's possible that if not for him the Thunder organization as we know it would be nonexistent today. Russell Westbrook is from California and played for UCLA. Kendrick Perkins used to play for Doc Rivers in Boston.

Spencer Hawes and Jamal Crawford are both from the Seattle area, where Durant began his NBA career and Nick Collison played for. Those two players are the only members of the OKC roster to have played as a SuperSonic. Perry Jones and Ekpe Udoh are both Baylor alums. Dion Waiters is also on this team.

Wikipedia

Dr. Thunder is a brand of soft drink produced for Walmart stores. Dr. Thunder was originally called "Southern Lightning", but the name was changed to reflect its similarities to Dr. Pepper. Since 2009, Walmart has sourced their store brand sodas from multiple companies, having previously exclusively used Cott Beverages as its manufacturer. The soda, as with all Walmart store brands, is also carried by Asda stores in the UK.