Los Angeles Clippers @ Oklahoma City Thunder -8.5
Both teams are trying to rebound from disappointing losses last night; the Clippers getting blown out by the Indiana Pacers and the Thunder suffering a surprising loss to Utah. The quick turnaround doesn’t necessarily favor either team, but it does make for yet another chapter in the NBA’s bizarre strike shortened, schedule-condensed scramble.
Tonight marks a bit of a homecoming for former Oklahoma University star Blake Griffin. Expect there some be some cheers of support for the NBA’s most popular young star tonight inside the always boisterous Thunder home crowd. Also expect Griffin to play well, as both he and Chris Paul break out of mini-shooting slumps they’ve been mired in the past week.
The Thunder have hit their first bit of adversity this season, losing three of their past five at home. Prior to that, they were a league-best 17-1. They still have a comfortable lead for the top seed in the Western Conference with a month to play, but a few more home losses and the Spurs will be putting some pressure on this young OKC team. That makes tonight an important game for two reasons; one, to send a message to a likely second round playoff opponent, and also to stop the skid and stabilize their season and home-court throughout quest.
The underdog in this series is 9-2 ATS over the last eleven matchups. With the Clippers getting 8.5 tonight, I think that trend continues. I like Oklahoma City to get the win, but I think Chris Paul and company can keep the game very close and interesting. The Clippers got a nice infusion of offense last night from the addition of Nick Young from the Wizards. He doesn’t replace Chauncey Billups by a long shot, but it does provide a little perimeter offense to take some of the pressure off of Chris Paul and let him focus more on playmaking and setting up Griffin and Caron Butler as opposed to having to consistently score big baskets himself.
That should come into play tonight, as it forces both of the Thunder guards to play a little more honestly defensively. Prior to Young’s addition, Sefalosha and/or Harden would be a lot more free to roam and double team; either on the ball to get it away from Paul, or down on the block to swat at Griffin. Young’s addition is an underrated signing, and one that makes the Clippers much more dangerous contenders in the West.
Are they good enough to dethrone the Thunder? I don’t think so, but tonight’s ballgame should be a nice, close test.