This isn’t the same Oklahoma City Thunder team that reached the playoffs last year. After exceeding expectations last year, OKC had one of the busiest offseasons in the NBA. They sent out a lot of their top players, including Chris Paul and Steven Adams. However, they’re still led by former Clipper Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and this is an OKC team that gives their 100 percent every night.
When: Friday, Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. PT
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
How to watch/listen: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570 Radio
Projected Starting Lineups:
Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Nicolas Batum, Serge Ibaka
Thunder: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, George Hill, Luguentz Dort, Darius Bazley, Isaiah Roby
Clippers: Nicolas Batum — QUESTIONABLE (personal)
Thunder: Ty Jerome — OUT (Left Ankle), Al Horford — OUT (personal), Josh Hall OUT (Health and Safety)
After winning three out of four games, the Thunder have flipped the script and now lost three of their last four games. They’ve been dealing with numerous injuries and have faced a pretty tough schedule, but they’re still 6-7 on the season, probably better than where a lot of people had them projected to be.
The problem for the Thunder is that they lack scorers. They average just over 105 points a game, the fourth-worst in the NBA. OKC is also shooting 33 percent from deep, the second-worst in the NBA. Former Clipper SGA is leading the way, averaging 21 points per game while also averaging six assists and five rebounds (Ugh, I miss him). Aside from him, the Thunder aren’t able to get production anywhere else.
Their second-leading scorer is Lu Dort (Go Sun Devils!), who is primarily a defender. Any points the Thunder can get out of him is a bonus. The 13.4 points per game they’re getting from him are the second-most on the team.
Aside from SGA, they also lack playmakers. The Thunder are averaging 22 assists a game, the fourth worst in the league. Aside from the six they get from the former Clipper, George Hill is the only other player on the team who averages at least three assists.
It really does make you wonder how this team has been able to stay competitive and how they’re currently only one game under .500. As I mentioned, this team won’t quit. However, they do have some really close wins that went in their favor, including two wins by two points and one win by one point, so they’re a few rolls away from potentially being 3-10.
Switching things over to the Clippers side, they’ve won five games in a row and are winners of six of their last seven games. They’ve looked like one of the best teams in the NBA all season, especially during this two-week stretch they are on. LA has won their last three games by at least 19 points and have scored at least 115 points in four of their last five games.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard were great for the Clippers in their win. George scored 19 points to go along with 12 assists and seven rebounds, with Leonard scoring a game-high 32 points while adding five assists, three rebounds and a game-high six steals.
Both those players are playing like MVP candidates up to this point, while their role players have been playing like MVPs as well.
This will be a fun matchup, as it’ll be interesting to see how this revamped Thunder team looks against a Clippers team that is rolling.