Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
When: 5:00 p.m. PST
How to watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, Fox Sports Go App, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups:
LA Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Marcin Gortat
Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook, Terrance Ferguson, Paul George, Jerami Grant, Steven Adams
Clippers: Luc Mbah A Moute (Knee) - Questionable
Thunder: Nerlens Noel (Ankle) - Questionable, Steven Adams (Calf) - Questionable
The Big Picture:
The Clippers are taking an absolute brutal stretch of early season scheduling head-on and coming out swinging. Despite all six games played thus far being against teams with winning records from last season, the Clips stand at 4-2 and have been competitive in the two losses. The Clippers played a Russell Westbrook-less Thunder squad 11 days ago and used a strong second half to win the game handily 108-92. The Clips keyed in on Paul George, only allowing him to get 20 hard earned points on 7-of-27 shooting, his lowest output of this young season. Now, with Westbrook back, this Thunder team will be completely different.
This game will test the Clippers’ road mettle, as playing in Oklahoma City is notoriously tough. L.A. has been doing a decent amount of traveling over the last week as they went to New Orleans, then Houston, back to L.A. and are now back in the Southwest. However, the Clippers depth is starting to shine, and if fatigue is an issue, there are 13 players ready to put in some time on the floor.
The Clips are being led right now by Tobias Harris who is becoming an absolute terror on the offensive end and is rebounding the ball at a high level. He posted his second double-double Sunday night against the Wizards and is currently averaging 21.8 points and nine rebounds a game. Montrezl Harrell has been an absolute beast in the second unit and is showing that he could be the best bargain contract in the NBA. Lou Williams is starting to shoot the lights out: he has shot an average of 61.3 percent and is 5-for-11 from three over the last three games. Avery Bradley has turned a switch in the last two games, as he has gone 12-for-22 from the floor and hit four threes. Patrick Beverley is heating up from deep, while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is continuing his stellar early play with back-to-back 10 point games. The team chemistry is building and they are looking rock solid through six games.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are limping into tonight’s game with a 1-4 record. Despite grabbing their first win of the season against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night, this was a Suns team without Devin Booker. The Thunder also lost the fourth quarter by 13 points and nearly squandered a huge lead, only winning by seven, 107-100. The Thunder are currently being led by five-time All-Star Paul George, who’s doing normal PG13 things, going for an average of 24.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 3.4 assists a night. Russell Westbrook missed the first two games of the season, recovering from off-season knee surgery, but has come back to his ferocious ways averaging 22.7 points, 12 rebounds, and 7.7 assists a game through three. To round out their big three, Steven Adams has been having a career year thus far averaging 14 points and 12.3 rebounds a game. This included season highs in scoring and rebounding against the Clippers on October 19, where he put up 17 points and 18 rebounds. Adams did miss the game against Phoenix however, and is questionable tonight with left calf soreness.
Outside of this big three however, the Thunder are really struggling. Dennis Schroder, brought to OKC in the offseason in the Carmelo Anthony deal, has been disappointing thus far, shooting 31.4 percent from the floor and averaging 2.6 turnovers a game. Starting two-guard Terrance Ferguson is misfiring and only averaging 2.6 points a game. Patrick Patterson, who started the first three games, was demoted after starting the season shooting 3-for-12 from three. The Thunder have been getting quality play out of a few members of their bench however, as Nerlens Noel (who put up his first 20 point, 15 rebound game of his career Sunday Night), Alex Abrines, and Hamidou Diallo have all shown positive flashes and contributed on a nightly basis. However, Noel appeared to have sprained his ankle in the fourth quarter of the Suns game and is questionable tonight.
Currently, the Thunder rank dead last in the NBA in team field goal percentage and three-point percentage. They are in the bottom four in team assists and 24th in team plus/minus. The Thunder are struggling to find a rhythm offensively and look off defensively as well in the absence of wing Andre Roberson.
What to watch for:
The Beverley-Westbrook matchup: It’s no secret that these two don’t particularly like each other on the court. Dating back to Beverley’s time with the Houston Rockets, Beverley and Russ have had quite the history. It first started when Beverley and Russ dove for a loose ball in the 2013 Western Conference playoffs and Beverley seemed to make contact with Westbrook’s right knee. The result was a torn meniscus for Russ and an exit from the playoffs. In Beverley’s last season with Houston, they exchanged a heated verbal encounter, again in the playoffs, as Beverley’s team clinched the series. Beverley likes to get under the skin of his opponent, especially if his opponent is a future hall-of-famer like Russ. Expect some aggressive defense and potential for a flare up between the two tonight.
Donovan on the hot seat: According to Bet DSI, Thunder head coach Billy Donovan has the highest odds (+150) of being the next head coach fired after Tyronn Lue was axed by the Cleveland Cavaliers this week. A 1-4 start is not great, especially after two quick first-round exits in the playoffs. With the Clippers beating opponents by an average of 17.75 points this season, if this game turns ugly for the Thunder, Donovan’s seat could get warmer.
Milos in the lineup: Having Milos back in the lineup for the Clippers has been a positive thus far. He hasn’t taken away critical minutes from SGA yet (third on the team in minutes averaged) and has eight assists through two games. He has also shot the ball well going 4-for-5 from the field. Milos is awesome to have back in the rotation because of his chemistry with Trez, his ability to pull off any pass on the floor, and the increased tempo he brings. Look for Milos to potentially torch the Thunder’s second unit tonight.