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Clippers vs Thunder Preview: Fracas on Figueroa

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As the battle for the 3 seed heats up, the Clippers welcome the Oklahoma City team for what should be a fiery contest.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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Oklahoma City Thunder (42-18)

Los Angeles Clippers (39-20)
March 2, 2016 — 7:30 PM PDT
STAPLES Center — Los Angeles, CA
Prime Ticket, ESPN
Win-Loss Breakdown
42-18 Record 39-20
13-11 East 19-6
29-7 West 20-14
10-1 Division 7-5
25-8 Home 20-10
17-10 Road 19-10
14-13 .500+ 14-13
28-5 .500– 25-7
3-1 OT 4-1
5-5 L10 7-3
Projected Starters
Russell Westbrook PG Chris Paul
Andre Roberson SG J.J. Redick
Kevin Durant SF Wesley Johnson
Serge Ibaka PF Paul Pierce
Steven Adams C DeAndre Jordan
Efficiency Stats ('15-'16)
99.36 (9th of 30) Pace 98.32 (13th of 30)
110.1 (2nd of 30) OffRtg 106.4 (6th of 30)
102.8 (14th of 30) DefRtg 100.5 (7th of 30)
7.3 (3rd of 30) NetRtg 6.0 (4th of 30)
Injury Report

Blake Griffin, Luc Mbah a Moute
Season Series
Date
Venue
Final
Clips Nation Recap
NBA Box Score
12/21/15
STAPLES Center
OKC 100 - LAC 99
Recap
Box Score
3/2/16
STAPLES Center
7:30 PM
TBD
TBD
3/31/16
Chesapeake Energy Arena
6:30 PM
TBD
TBD

The Big Picture: The Clippers have weathered numerous injuries to key pieces as of late. Word on the street is that one of those key pieces might be back in uniform tonight. Austin Rivers is expected to make his return from a broken hand. The return of Rivers will be more than welcome, especially on a night like tonight when the Clippers host one of the NBA's premiere point guards and most athletic players. But just as we welcome a Clipper back to the line-up, we say good-bye to another, for the time being... Luc Mbah a Moute will miss the game tonight with an eye injury, further depleting an already thin front court sans Blake Griffin.

The Antagonist: The Thunder have both  their stars healthy, a competent coach and their eyes on a championship banner. Needless to say, they are in their best position in years. That said, the Thunder have stumbled to a 5-5 record in their last 10 games. While the Thunder offense is as prolific as ever, their defense has been ho-hum, despite Russell Westbrook leading the league in steals. Westbrook and Kevin Durant are 2nd and 3rd respectively in PER. Durant trails only Steph Curry in True Shooting percentage.

The Subplots:

  • Comparison of Key Metrics. Both the Clippers and Thunder are top 5 in net rating, though they have taken different routes to get there. The Thunder are in the upper echelon of offensive rating but solidly middle-of-the-pack when it comes to defense. The Clippers ,on the other hand, are just outside the top five in both categories.
  • Battle for the 3 Seed. The Clippers hope to get over the hump in the playoffs and many think the best chance is to avoid the Warriors for a long as possible. This would mean getting the three seed. Not to say that a match-up with the Spurs in the second round would be that much easier, but why rush to face a historically good team? The Clippers currently trail the Thunder by 2.5 games. If the Clippers want to overtake OKC, they will need to win the head-to-head match-ups to have a real shot.
  • Clippers vs the Top Teams. The Clippers finally got a win against a top five team when they defeated the Spurs the other day.  Until that point, the major knock on the Clippers is that they couldn't win against the top tier teams and thus, were doomed to second round purgatory once again. People are still knocking the win against the Spurs because Kawhi Leonard was out, while failing to mention that Blake Griffin and Austin Rivers were out as well. Today will be a chance to quiet the critics a bit as they take on a fully healthy Thunder squad that damn near beat the Warriors a few days ago.
  • Dubs-Induced Heartbreak. The Clippers have played the Warriors very tough this season and come up just short in heart-wrenching losses. The first two match-ups saw the Warriors win with furious 4th quarter comebacks. In the third contest, the Clippers mounted a late comeback of their own but were unable to pull out the win. While all of those were absolute bummers, they weren't as shocking of a loss as the Thunder got from the Warriors last Saturday. The Warriors got a bail out foul to push the game to OT and then, after Westbrook missed a go-ahead lay-up, Steph Curry hit won of the most infuriating buzzer beaters of all time, launching the ball from Mars and draining it with fractions of a second remaining. I'm not sure which loss is the worst loss.
  • F*** Chuck. The Clippers unveiled their new mascot on Monday. This thing is just god awful on so many levels. I guess I'm just not fun. Please kill it with fire.
  • The Line. Thunder Pick (-105) Clippers Pick (-115). The Clippers are the slightest of favorites tonight in a pick em game. How can there be a favorite in a pick em game, you ask? If you bet the same amount on the Thunder and the Clippers, you would win slightly more on a Thunder victory. A 100 dollar bet on the Thunder would get you 95.24 back. A 100 dollar bet on the Clippers would get you 86.96.
  • For the Thunder's point of view, head over to Welcome to Loud City.