Oklahoma City @ Los Angeles Clippers
Tip Off- 9pm CST
The Oklahoma City Thunder (6-7) will be taking their 5-game road trip to the City Of Angels, against the Los Angeles Clippers (11-4.) These two teams will have a shot at putting their stamp on the series on Sunday, as they play each other consecutively this week.
For the Thunder, they slipped into the seams of a negative record yet again in their 119-101 loss to the Nuggets on Tuesday, but they have their eyes set on cushioning their record back up to the horizon at 7-7. The Clippers’ asportations for this season have been evident from the start, as their roster construction centered around Kawhi Leonard and Paul George immediately hoist them into the conversation.
The Clippers are in the midst of their biggest hot streak of the season winning their last five games, and a win tonight elevates them to the first seed in the Western Conference. The Clippers Co-stars in Leonard and George make them a force to be reckoned with, especially given how well they’ve played as of late. Kawhi Leonard has been a consistent factor in the team’s games, averaging a team-leading 24.9 points a night on 50% shooting. Leonard has been the most surefire player on the court for LA, scoring 15 points or more in all 13 games he has played in. Paul George could well be the primary factor in contributing tonight however. George is a nick behind Leonard in scoring (24.4), but in the past month, there’s a real case he’s been the most efficient scorer in the league. The 6-foot-8 guard has only dropped outing under 20 points (he scored 19) in the month of January, and more enamoring, he’s shooting 50% through the month, and from deep– 52% on 8 attempts per game.
These overwhelming totals from George make guarding the perimeter a necessity from the Thunder, and though Kawhi has only shot 4.4 threes a night this month, he’s cashing in on 49% of those shots. Even looking down the bench, the Clippers have guards Luke Kennard and Lou Williams who are shooting above the 40% mark from deep.
With Dort covering Leonard, George Hill may be called upon to face his former teammate Paul George to start the game. George towers over Hill with a four inch height advantage, and his deadly distance stacked with slashing ability may be too much for the 34-year-old guard. If so, look for names such as Kenrich Williams to have an uptick in production as he provides an immediate impact in perimeter defense. potentially giving George a double take.
Oklahoma City let up 62 points in the paint to Denver on Tuesday, and with Al Horford still out, they will be rolling out a small-ball lineup with Roby at the five. Roby had a career night on defense in his last game, swooping in a career-high four steals, but protecting the basket must come first. Roby will go toe-to-toe with 6-foot-10 Serge Ibaka for the majority of this game. Ibaka’s skillset provides a nice face-up mid-range for the Clips, but he does not have the same strength or playmaking skills to that of Jokic. If Roby can push Ibaka out to the perimeter in tonight’s game, it is a net win for the forward.
It’s safe to say Isaiah Roby could be a cornerstone of the Thunder’s offense tonight. The Roby-SGA high-pick-and-roll has done wonders for both parties and the implementation of that play will be at tenfold tonight. Shai had a difficult time navigating through the paint in his last game, in his New Years low 14 points. Despite that, he found a variety of blue jerseys open for shots to get 7 assists by the end of it. If the Roby-SGA screen can be used early to get open three balls, the whole gameplan may be set and stone in the first two minutes. The Thunder’s shooting woes in the last four games have been apparent, going 46-145 (31.7%.) Setting the tone outside early will give SGA and Roby the space to work on the interior. Lu Dort will be a likely target from deep, as his team-leading 31 triples this year make him the primary option off kick-outs.
We will see how these in-conference foes match-up in tonight’s game at 9. If you are looking to learn more about some underrated options for both sides tonight, I highly suggest listening to tonight’s game preview on the Thundersticks Podcast (my podcast.)