Oklahoma City Thunder (3-0) at Los Angeles Clippers (3-0)
When: Wednesday @ 9:30 CT.
Watch: FS1 and ESPN.
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers have been rivals for the majority of the time the Thunder have been in OKC. Although Blake Griffin won’t have to deal with Serge Ibaka anymore, there’s a new controversial presence in the post and that’s Steven Adams. Honestly, as long as Russell Westbrook plays on this team, it will be a rivalry.
This Clippers team looks good this year and many people (including me) projects them finishing second or third in the conference. However, there are a few ways I believe this Thunder team can beat them.
Beat them fundamentally.
With Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan’s athleticism, it’s a nearly impossible matchup, especially with a Thunder frontcourt that features Steven Adams and Enes Kanter. Not saying they aren’t athletic because that’d be a lie. Jordan and Griffin possess strength, an uncanny leaping ability for their size, and a finesse side to their game. Blake can even step out and hit jump shots at an efficient level.
In this case, fundamentals will pay off. Boxing out these guys on rebounds, respecting Blake’s shot and understanding that some of these times, when Jordan get’s the ball in scoring position, to simply foul him and make him earn it from the line considering his career 43 percent free throw shooting and 33 percent this season. This is one of the rare cases where his field goal percentage is significantly higher than his free throw percentage (66 percent vs. 43 percent). Pick and choose when to make him earn it from the line.
Utilize Russell and Victor’s full athletic potential.
Things are very unclear about this team right now, but one thing we know and are certain of is Russell Westbrook and Victor Oladipo’s athletic ability, on both the defensive and offensive end. They also have very clear advantages over the Clippers backcourt: Their size and physicality, mixed with that athletic ability. Chris Paul may be the best overall, true, vintage point guard in the NBA right now, but what can hurt him in this contest will be his lack of size. At just 6-feet tall, 175 pounds, he’s in for some trouble for either one of these guys but especially Russell. Just like contests of the past between these two teams, Russell should take Chris into the post a dozen times during this game. Russell’s 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame dominates all but maybe two point guards in the NBA. Things could be great for Russell as long as he doesn’t try to beat him with just speed.
Same thing goes for Oladipo. He’s big. J.J. Reddick matches Oladipo’s height of 6-foot-4 but falls short in weight by 20 or 25 pounds. Same goes for Jamal Crawford who’s actually taller at 6-foot-5, but still only weighs 195 pounds.
Simply be physical.
Balanced scoring, and a lot of it.
Simple as that. Los Angeles is known as an offensive-minded team for the most part. In this young season, they average 106 points per game but that average is likely to increase as the season progresses. Oklahoma City has a new defensive identity but it isn’t strong enough to completely diminish the Clippers offense. The Thunder have to score as well. Russell Westbrook leads the NBA with 38 points per game, and Victor Oladipo seems to be an asset, but it’s up to Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Kyle Singler and Anthony Morrow’s scoring to win this game. With that being said, Billy Donovan needs to get Morrow in this game. It’ll be needed.