Matchup: LA Clippers vs Oklahoma City Thunder
Records: Clippers (17-11); Thunder (17-10)
Where to Watch
Date: Sunday, Dec. 16
TV: Ten 1 & Sony ESPN
Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
It's been a rough past ten days for both these teams.
The Oklahoma City Thunder had recovered from an 0-4 start by winning 15 of their next 18 games but they've stumbled to a 2-3 record over the five games in the past ten days. Neither of the three losses has been astounding or trend-setting - one came against the Bulls in Chicago of a Lauri Markannen game-winner while the other two losses were tough road games in New Orleans and Denver.
Is this the start of the Thunder losing their form of just a minor speed bump?
So far, through 27 games, Oklahoma City has the best defense in the league with a defensive rating of 102.2 and this is without arguably their best perimeter defender in Andre Roberson, who is expected to return from a knee injury in early January. Meanwhile, their offense (tied 18th in the league), led by their All-Star duo of Paul George and Russell Westbrook are doing just enough to win games.
In 22 games played, Westbrook is currently averaging a triple-double - 22.0 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 10.0 assists. George is having a career-year, averaging career-highs in points (24.3), rebounds (7.9), assists (4.3), and steals (2.2 - leads the league).
At least Oklahoma City has two former All-Stars (surely Westbrook and George would be All-Stars once again in 2019) to rely on but the same can't be said for the LA Clippers. They have been griding their way to wins through team play but was their 15-6 start just a hot streak?
Yes, Tobias Harris has been making a strong case to be an All-Star this season but the same can't be said of the team, especially in this month. Through October and November, the LA Clippers had the fourth-best offensive rating (112.9) and the 13th-best defensive rating (107.6) but those numbers have taken a huge slide in the final month of 2018.
Since the beginning of December, the Clippers have gone a miserable 2-5. In these seven games, the Clippers' offense and defense are ranked 25th or below - offensive rating (102.7 - 25th) and defensive rating (115.7 - 29th). What's worse, all of these five losses have come by double digits. It's just a few games but the team's performance in December is a troubling trend.
The Clippers' last three losses have all come by a margin of more than 20 points - a 23-point loss to the Miami Heat, a 24-point loss to a Kawhi-less Toronto Raptors and a 38-point blowout at the hands of the Spurs in San Antonio.
This contest is a must-win for either team, in order to get swing some much-needed momentum their way.
- This game is the Oklahoma City Thunder's fourth back-to-back of the season and their record is 2-1 in the second game of the back-to-backs.
- Also, this contest is 14th home game for Oklahoma City, where they have gone 10-3. Meanwhile, the LA Clippers have gone 8-8 in their 16 road games so far.
- The Clippers are expected to field a roster for this game without Jerome Robinson, Lou Williams and Luc Mbah A Moute while the only absentee for the Thunder is Andre Roberson.
Last Time They Played
Date: Oct. 31, 2018
Score: Clippers 110, Thunder 128
Clippers: Danilo Gallinari - 27 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals
Thunder: Russell Westbrook - 32 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals on 52.0% shooting