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Clippers vs. Thunder Preview: The Threequel

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Meeting for the third time this year, one loss separates the two teams between the loss column in a battle for the three seed.

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

Los Angeles Clippers (39-20)
March 9, 2016 — 6:30 PM PDT
Chesapeake Energy Arena — Oklahoma City, OK
Prime Ticket, ESPN
Win-Loss Breakdown
43-20 Record 41-21
14-11 East 19-7
29-9 West 21-15
10-1 Division 7-5
25-8 Home 20-11
18-12 Road 20-10
14-15 .500+ 15-14
29-5 .500– 25-7
3-1 OT 4-1
5-5 L10 6-4
Projected Starters
Russell Westbrook PG Chris Paul
Andre Roberson SG J.J. Redick
Kevin Durant SF Jeff Green
Serge Ibaka PF Paul Pierce
Steven Adams C DeAndre Jordan
Efficiency Stats ('15-'16)
96.8 (10th of 30) Pace 96.3 (13th of 30)
112.7 (2nd of 30) OffRtg 108.0 (7th of 30)
105.8 (15th of 30) DefRtg 103.1 (6th of 30)
6.9 NetRtg 4.9
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
LAC 103 - OKC 98
Recap
Box Score
3/31/16
Chesapeake Energy Arena
6:30 PM
TBD
TBD

One.

Russell Westbrook dribbles past a quick Kevin Durant screen. Chris Paul contorts his body to get around the screen, trailing Westbrook. Wesley Johnson, originally guarding Durant, gets caught somewhere between hedging towards Westbrook and sticking to Durant, defending neither. Durant slips towards the baseline around 17 feet and catches a quick pass from Westbrook who recognizes Johnson's inadequate position. Durant rises up for the midrange shot and makes it, with a little over two minutes remaining.

A quick oral history of the only shot the Thunder made in the final 7 minutes and 26 seconds the last time the teams played on March 2nd, 2016. Just one.

Here's the Thunder shot chart over that time frame

Thunder Shot Chart

Conversely, here's the Clippers shot chart over that span.

Clippers Shot Chart

The Clippers were down 93-77 and won 103-98.

Paul started the comeback attacking the middle of the Thunder's defense off of ball-screens. With the Thunder defense collapsed in the middle focused on Paul, Johnson spotted up, connecting on a couple of three-pointers during the comeback.

In usual Clipper fashion, DeAndre Jordan masked mistakes by others. That normally occurs on the defensive end. On March 2nd during the comeback, it happened on the offensive. Jordan corralled two offensive rebounds off of poor shots and converted the continued possession into layups.

During the comeback, most things went right for the Clippers and most went wrong for the Thunder. Credit the Clippers created their own luck by attacking the paint. The Thunder settled for jumpshots.

Two.

The New York Knicks and the New Orleans Pelicans are the only two non-playoff teams the Clippers play in the next two weeks. There are nine total games starting tonight, and the other seven teams include the Thunder, Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors and Portland Trailblazers. That stretch also includes three back-to-backs.

The Thunder's next two weeks is easier. They play, in order, the Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Spurs, Trailblazers, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers, Rockets, and the Utah Jazz. The Thunder play only two back-to-backs.

Three.

This is the third matchup of the season between the two teams. Just like every previous game, the three seed is at stake, which means avoiding the Warriors at home in the second round. The teams are separated by only one game in the loss column, but the Clippers are two games short in the win column.

If current seeding remains, the Clippers would play the Grizzlies in the first round. The Thunder would play the Dallas Mavericks.

Another "three" note. Oklahoma City has only lost three times this year when Westbrook shoots less than 17 shots. They've won the other 23. Westbrook averages 18.5 shot attempts per-game this season and in the two games between the Clippers and Thunder he's shot 25 shots and 21 shots.

Four.

The Thunder's starting lineup features the closest you can get to a four-on-five on the offensive end in the modern NBA. Andre Roberson averages 22 minutes per-game and scores just 4.7. Only five players in the NBA play over 20 minutes-per-game and score less than 5 points-per: Alonzo Gee, Anthony Brown, Dante Cunningham, Joakim Noah and Roberson.

Roberson is very effective within 5 feet of the basket, shooting 59.5-percent from that range. Roberson outside of 5 feet is not so great, he shoots 27-percent. Look for the Clippers to basically ignore Roberson anywhere outside of the paint and dare him to beat the Clippers.

Defensively, Roberson can guard four positions, and well. This season, opponents shoot 4.5-percent worse than their normal averages with Roberson guarding them. He's 6-foot-7 and long. Drafted originally as the Thabo replacement, Roberson's made himself a fixture in the starting lineup due to his consistency on that half of the court.

Five.

Jeff Green missed all five of his shots last game against the Mavericks. He also missed all seven of his shots last time against the Thunder. In his eight games with the Clippers, he's played approximately the same as everywhere else has been - some good games with a few more bad games.

Green averages 11 points-per-game. If there were a stat for scoring variance from one's own mean, Green must lead the pack. Green's scored zero points twice, but has also scored 22 and 18.

Don't forget Green used to be apart of the Thunder's Big Three pre-Harden. It was Durant, Westbrook and Green. Times have changed.

Green will be the primary option guarding his ex-teammate, Durant, just like last game. Durant scored inefficiently over the course of the game, getting 30 points on 27-shots. For the Clippers to win, Green and the team defense must hold the former MVP to a similar outing.