Photo Credits: Coby Van Loan/OKC Thunder
Oklahoma City (6-8) remains in Los Angeles on Sunday to play their second game of a two-game series vs. the Clippers (12-4.) Tip-off will be at 3pm CST on FSOK. Both teams ran it up on Friday where the Clippers controlled the contest, winning 120-106. but redemption is on the Thunder’s minds.
The Thunder will have various adjustments they will need to tackle in order to take down one of the Western Conference’s giants, let’s take a look at the issues.
Keys To The Game:
Crash The Glass
Oklahoma City lost the rebounding category 36-55 on Friday, and it all started with the lack of production from the bigs. The Thunder bigs of Bazely, Roby, Muscala, and Pokusevski combined for eight rebounds– Serge Ibaka on the other hand? Eleven.
A lot of the time bigs were being stretched out to the perimeter, essentially taking them out of the rebounding battle, but when Ibaka snags more than all of your bigs– it may be a point of concern.
Purposeful But Not Physical
Physical generally has a good connotation when it comes to NBA defense. When you think of someone physical, you’re looking at someone throwing their body on the line to prevent an opponent’s score. That’s true, but the was the course of Friday’s game went, that’s something we shouldn’t want to be tagged with.
Oklahoma City gave the Clippers 25 chances at the line to their 13 and it was all accredited to “physical” defense. You need to be smothering both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George (who shot 16 of the 25 free throws) to give yourself any chance in the game but you can’t give the refs any 50/50 calls. Since, as we know on Friday, they don’t tend to go the Thunder’s way.
Limiting the Clippers Three
The Clippers embarked on a three part process on Friday: one, penetrate at will, two, get the Thunder to overhelp inside, three, swing the ball for the open three. This drive-and-dish strategy worked to a tee as the Clippers cruised to a double-digit lead in the opening stages of the game, almost entirely off finding shots outside. The craziest part about the three for the Clippers was, they should have cashed in on way more. Guards Luke Kennard and Lou Williams are shooting 46% and 36% from deep respectively, they shot 0/8 on open triples last game. If they converted on just two or three of those, they could’ve pushed their lead past 30.
The Clippers saw how well this gameplan worked, and you should expect a similar playstyle today. For the Thunder, they will need to find a way to stop the open jumpers.
Oklahoma City has two options:
A) Allow Drives Inside
B) Continue to risk open threes early
Option A will give the Clippers points at a much higher rate, percentage wise. Option B on the other hand is a lot more risky for both parties. The Clippers had a 23-8 advantage five minutes in on Friday due to us prioritizing the penetration over triples, and that costly decision took us out of the game early.
If the Thunder want a chance to stop the Clippers offense, they will need to incorporate some risks in their playbook. What better risk to take then throwing out Kenrich Williams at the starting two?
Williams is that much needed defensive presence you can throw on Paul George early, to try to get him off his game. George erupted for 16 points (7-8 FG) in the first half on Friday, those numbers are unacceptable. Williams is a major knock from George Hill in terms of offensive value, but the defense must come first. Williams gets in the action of near every play on defense, something that is necessary to clog their passing-oriented offense. The clear height differential of two inches (6’6″ to Hill’s 6’4″) will be a bigger factor than one may notice. Paul George was operating under constant screens on Friday, and he was able to blow-by and shoot right over the top of smaller defenders. Williams synchs the height differential up, potentially giving George more issues trying to muscle inside and maybe even make him second-guess himself trying to pull the trigger outside. Kenrich Williams has faced some fouling issues in the past, but the reward of stopping PG is much greater than the risk of causing early foul troubles.
Today’s offensive keys to the game consist of Roby/Muscala converting on threes, Bazley bouncing-back, and SGA and Dort– just doing their thing.
To hear more about today’s offensive keys take a listen to today’s rendition of the Thundersticks Podcast (offensive keys start at 21:05)