Sports Out West

Clippers vs Thunder: AccuScore game preview

Winners of five of their last six games, the Los Angeles Clippers head to Oklahoma City on Thursday to hopefully defeat the Thunder for the second time in the past eight days. With 20 points and 11 assists in the win against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, Chris Paul notched his 12th straight double-double to start the 2013-2014 NBA season. Paul had 14 points and 16 assists in a 111-103 home victory over the Thunder on Nov. 13. The Thunder know all too well that the Clippers go as Paul does – can OKC’s perimeter defense contain Paul with hard traps and double-teams, or will another double=double lead to a Clipper victory?

AccuScore simulations have the Thunder as slight 55.4 percent favorites vs the Clippers. The average score after 10,000 simulations is 103-102, with L.A. having nearly a 61 percent chance of covering the +5.5 spread. There’s nearly a 60 percent chance of the total combined score staying under 211. Both teams have about the same probability at a close win (4 points or less), but the Thunder have a slightly higher chance at a big win (10 points or more). It makes sense that OKC is more likely to get a big win – they’re at home playing a team that’s on the back end of a back-t0-back. The fact that the Clippers have nearly the same chance at a close win as the Thunder indicates how valuable the variables of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are. Both have been playing phenomenal, and Paul’s consistency gives Los Angeles a fighting chance in any situation. 

Projected Leaders

Chris Paul: 21 points, 14 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals

Blake Griffin: 21 points, 11 rebounds, 1 block

Jamal Crawford: 14 points (two three-pointers), 3 assists

Russell Westbrook: 23 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals

Kevin Durant: 29 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists

Serge Ibaka: 12 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks 

What to Watch for

Thursday night’s matchup between the Clippers and Thunder give basketball fans the ultimate point guard battle as Paul goes up against Russell Westbrook. Paul is averaging 19.5 points and a league-best 12.5 assists, while Westbrook is putting up 22.8 points and 5.1 assists per game. These two have faced each other 16 times in their respective careers, with Paul’s team having won 10 of the 16 games. In this sample size of games, Paul has averaged 19.2 points and 10.1 assists and Westbrook has averaged 18.9 points and 7.2 assists. What stands out most, however, is that Paul has averaged more than three steals a game and Westbrook has averaged more than four turnovers. 

Keep an eye out for how well the Thunder take care of the ball tonight. Some early, unforced turnovers puts the Clippers in the open court; they are No. 5 in the league in fast break points (17.5 points per game). 

Importance of Second Quarter 

1st quarter points per game: 27.7 (LAC) vs 26.6 (OKC)

2nd quarter points per game: 28.2 (LAC) vs 24.7 (OKC)

3rd quarter points per game: 25.6 (LAC) vs 24.8 (OKC)

4th quarter points per game: 27.8 (LAC) vs 27.1 (OKC)

Whereas the Clippers rank first in the league in second quarter scoring, the Thunder rank No. 15. Although the Thunder seem to struggle a bit with offense in the second quarters of games thus far, their average second quarter margin is +1.6 compared to the Clippers’ +0.2. The stats indicate that the Clippers increase the pace of the game in second quarters, giving up more points along with scoring more. The Thunder, however, seem to ramp up their defense in the second quarter of games. 

Prediction

If this game were being played in L.A., I’d pick the Clippers. They just got a hard-fought victory in Minnesota the night before – getting a win in OKC the next day is quite the challenge. Thunder by 6. 

Photo Credit: Richard Rowe/US Presswire

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Rohit Ghosh

Rohit is an L.A.-based sports journalist who contributes to SB Nation's Silver Screen and Roll, AccuScore, and the Taxi Squad Show based out of Utah. He also runs his own sports blog, Metta Chronicles. Follow him on Twitter @RohitGhosh where he discusses AccuScore projection data, a variety of sports-related topics, and even some Jazz music.