After fighting adversity this postseason, the third seeded Los Angeles Clippers unified and beat Golden State in seven games. Now Doc Rivers and company travel to Oklahoma City to square off against battle tested Thunder (2 seed) tonight. OKC bounced the Memphis Grizzlies in seven games as well, to setup this high powered matchup between the two juggernauts. Kevin Durant was slain by the media and newspapers all last week being labeled “Mr. Unreliable”, but has recently come to life. KD averaged 34.5 points per game on 56% shooting the last two games of the first round series. Both squads are aiming to make a trip to the Western Conference finals where they will face either San Antonio or Portland.
Keys To Victory : Clippers
– First and foremost they must slow Kevin Durant down, throw multiple defenders his way and give him a variety of defensive looks throughout this series. I believe Matt Barnes will get the first crack at the MVP candidate.
– Clipper guards must make Russell Westbrook a jump shooter and keep him off of the free throw line. It is vital to keep him from attacking the rim at will. That could lead to Clipper bigs getting into foul trouble and possibly on a poster.
– Chris Paul must show up EVERY game, he cannot afford to take any games off in this series going up against Westbrook. We saw in the previous series he had a couple subpar games. He cannot afford that against this Oklahoma City team
– DeAndre Jordan must make free throws down the stretch if he plans on seeing minutes in crunch time
Keys To Victory: Thunder
– Russell Westbrook MUST stay under control and play his game in this series. The opposing point guard has been labeled the best in the NBA by many. So Russ may come out playing with an even bigger chip on his shoulder.
– The Oklahoma City bench will have to put up points. The Clippers led the NBA in points per game at 107.9, when the starters get rest they have to maintain leads.
– Serge Ibaka is going to have to play like a man and avoid picking up early fouls because he will be defending Blake Griffin. Ibaka finished second in blocks per game this season with 2.7.
– Kevin Durant will have to be the catalyst, the SUPERSTAR & a cold blooded assassin versus these Clippers. Durant needs to attack the basket and not fall in love with the three point shot. At 6’10, he needs to put smaller defenders on his hip in the post and draw fouls to get easy buckets. Both of which should end with him at the free throw line.
The X factor for the Clips will be the play of sharpshooter JJ Redick, he has the ability to knock down threes in bunches. Redick can also put it on the floor and create, but shooting is his calling card. When CP3 gets to the paint and Thunder bigs collapse, JJ will have to knock down open shots with consistency. The Duke University standout will get his fair share of looks, he just has to capitalize on those opportunities. During the season JJ averaged a career best 15.2 points per game. Life won’t be pleasant for him with Thabo Sefalosha draped all over him. He will definitely have to pick his spots and take good shots.
X- Factor: Thunder
Russell Westbrook will be the X factor for the Oklahoma City Thunder. His decision making alone will be paramount, we all know he can score the basketball. The issue being that he has to be EFFICIENT in scoring this series, missed shots versus the Clippers could lead to a downpour of transition three pointers. He will have to get to the cup and finish consistently. Westbrook also will be responsible for defending Chris Paul on the other end of the floor. So he must conserve as much energy as possible on both sides of the ball. Which leads to the biggest key, Russ has to let KD work offensively and be there to support him up when needed. Although we know Russ is a capable scorer, Kevin Durant must be “THE MAN” in this series. Russ is the X factor because of his defensive responsibility, he also has a strong responsibility on the offensive end as well.
PREDICTION: OKC IN 6