Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
When: 5:00 p.m. PT
How to watch/listen: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr., Ivica Zubac
Thunder: Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort, Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams
Thunder: Darius Bazley (knee bruise) — OUT
The Clippers and Thunder are meeting for the third of four times this season; the two teams have split the previous two games, both relatively exciting affairs with the home team winning each one. The first matchup in Los Angeles featured a Paul George game-winner as former Clipper Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was unable to respond on his final possession. In Oklahoma City, Gilgeous-Alexander ended up out-dueling George in the fourth quarter, leading a late surge for a Thunder win.
One name notably absent from those two matchups was Kawhi Leonard, who has yet to play against Oklahoma City this season. Patrick Beverley also missed the second game on the road, meaning this is the first time this season the Clippers will have their full roster against the Thunder.
There are fascinating matchups up and down the roster between these two teams. At point guard, Beverley and Chris Paul were traded for one another two and a half years ago and are two of the feistiest defenders in the league, capable of antagonizing opponents at a moment’s notice. Paul has consistently performed at an All-Star level this season for the first time since his Clippers tenure, and his extensive knowledge of Doc Rivers’ playbook gives him an extra advantage against LA.
At shooting guard are two other players who were traded for each other in George and Gilgeous-Alexander. SGA was supposed to be the path towards the future for the Clippers, and he ended up serving that purpose in an unexpected way. The battles between these two have defined the season series thus far; George is eager to show that he made the right choice in asking out of Oklahoma City, while Gilgeous-Alexander attempts to prove that LA was wrong to part with him.
Off the bench, Lou Williams faces perhaps his toughest competition for sixth man of the year in Dennis Schröder, another electric scoring guard who is averaging 18.8 points on 47.0% shooting from the field.
The advantage for the Clippers, as is the case in most matchups, is Leonard. The Thunder have depth at the guard slots, with three capable ball handlers to run the offense; in fact, they rarely play any minutes without two of Paul, Gilgeous-Alexander, and Schröder on the floor. But their wings are wiry, unable to handle the physicality of Leonard.
Some opposing teams try to put their power forward on Leonard, but this is not a matchup for Danilo Gallinari. The former Clipper’s offensive brilliance has traveled to Oklahoma City, but so has his limited defensive capability, especially against power wings. The Thunder may be further disadvantaged by having to go up against the reigning Finals MVP, given that they like to play long stretches with their three-guard lineup. That trio is plus-10 in 11 minutes against the Clippers this season, per Pivot Analysis, but will likely have a tougher time now that LA can play Leonard, as well as George and Marcus Morris.
LA has generally stepped up to the level of the competition this season, and Oklahoma City is a strong home team (20-12), trying to rack up wins to earn homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Clippers have inherent advantages, but they’ll have to approach this game seriously because the Thunder certainly will.
- Reggie Jackson, who started his career in Oklahoma City, historically hasn’t played well against the Thunder. In five meetings before this season, he averaged 12 points per game on 29.7% shooting. However, he finally showed out last month when he was with Detroit (28 points on 11-of-18 shooting) and is riding a hot stretch going into tonight’s game.
- Morris had a strange beef with OKC last year when he blasted the Thunder for how they utilized his brother after signing him for the stretch run of the season. So many faces within that organization have changed (including two who are now in Los Angeles in George and Patrick Patterson), so it’s probably water under the bridge at this point.
- Montrezl Harrell had one of his best games of the season against OKC in November. The backup center combo of Nerlens Noel and Mike Muscala just has absolutely no chance against the energy Harrell brings to the floor.
- The Thunder haven’t played since Friday, when they were obliterated by the Milwaukee Bucks. There's no shame in losing to Milwaukee, even getting blown out, but OKC must be antsy to get back on the court and redeem itself.
Enjoy the game, and comment below!