Los Angeles Clippers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Thunder lead series 3-2
7:30 p.m. PST
May 15, 2014
1. What is a positive the Clippers can take away from Game 5?
Jovan Buha, (@jovanbuha): There are still two more games to be played, and the Clippers can win them both. I think Game 6 was always going to be their Game 7 — they’d either be coming back down 3-2 and need to win to survive (the current situation), or they’d be up 3-2 and have to try to close out at home to avoid going back to OKC for a real Game 7 (what should’ve happened). Also, I hate to say it, but it was basketball karma, in a sense, for Game 4. Los Angeles didn’t really deserve to win that game, just like OKC didn’t deserve to win Game 5. That being said, there weren’t any controversial reffing decisions in Game 4, so it’s slightly different.
Aaron Fischman, (@aaronhartf): Much improved rebounding! So, it’s cool and all that they held Durant to 6-of-22 shooting but that won’t happen again. Trust that. But the second straight game where the Clippers either led or were even in the rebounding department represents a significant silver lining. Through the first three games of the series, the Thunder pulled down 58.8 percent of the rebounds (143 to the Clippers’ 100). That’s starting to change.
Law Murray, (@1maddskillz): A positive that the Clippers can take away from Game 5 is that there is a Game 6. Period. Sure, we can sit here saying how the Clippers should have won Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead coming to Los Angeles. The way I see it, the Clippers should have lost Game 4 in L.A. Can you imagine losing the series by losing Game 4 in a blowout, then blowing a lead to the Thunder? Of course you can’t. Chances are, you’re only worried about the fact that the Clippers should have closed this series out already, if it weren’t for blowing two fourth quarter leads (Game 3 as well). The reality is, Los Angeles can still win the series, and it should be grateful for that opportunity.
2. Should J.J. Redick be getting more playing time?
Buha: Yes. Without a doubt. He’s arguably the Clippers’ best two-way wing, and Doc Rivers continues to underplay him for some unknown reason. Redick is an average defender at worst, and an offense unto himself with his off-ball movement and the threat of his three-point shooting. He provides Chris Paul and Blake Griffin the space to operate in the pick and roll, which is invaluable. I think he should be playing 32 to 36 minutes easily, with Jamal Crawford’s playing time taking a 5-to-10 minute hit.
Fischman: Probably a little more. J.J. Redick is a more consistent shooter than the awfully streaky Jamal Crawford, who can turn red hot and alternatively freezing cold. Redick is also the smarter player and the superior defender. Much of these decisions depend on how the specific game is going and how each player is performing. That said, Redick’s 23.6 minutes per game this series should probably be closer to 28.6.
Murray: I’m mad that I’m about to sound like Mark Cuban – this is a slippery slope. On one hand, this was supposed to be a “Jamal Crawford” series. On the other, and it pains me to say this, Jamal’s been stinking it. He’s letting the narrative of him being a shameless gun who is a detriment to any wannabe contender speak for itself, shooting a ghastly 35 percent from the field and 30 percent from three. He has 81 points on 80 shots. Redick has his disadvantages, but his stroke hasn’t completely disappeared like Crawford’s. I’m not saying bench Jamal — but yes, Redick should be able to handle a few more minutes, especially if Collison is only getting run in fire drills.
3. What’s the best way to contain Russell Westbrook?
Buha: This is the third time you’ve asked me this, and it’s the third time I don’t know the answer. I still contend Westbrook isn’t as big of a problem as Kevin Durant, for obvious reasons. The Thunder were in Game 5 because Westbrook kept them around, but they didn’t make their final push over the top until KD got going (Westbrook’s clutch free throws need to be acknowledged, of course). I don’t expect the Clippers’ bigs to get in that bad of foul trouble again, so that’ll help.
Fischman: For one, it’s important to get back in transition, one area where Westbrook has especially skilled in attacking if there’s any semblance of space. The problem is that even in a half-court setting, Westbrook is so quick, athletic and explosive that he can often get around his opponent and dunk or lay in the ball. For that reason, forcing Westbrook into a lower-percentage outside shot is often the best bet. He is shooting 41 percent from deep this series, but many of those shots have not been closely contested because of the threat his drives present.
Murray: This is easier said than done, but the Clippers need to stop fouling Westbrook. They’re not going to stop him. So they need to stop giving him target practice ten times a game. The other thing is having a level of awareness. Westbrook is a beast in the transition game, and live-ball turnovers and horrible shot selection allow Westbrook a chance to get grab-and-go steals and rebounds. Westbrook is a mismatch against all of the Clippers guards – he’s running circles around Chris Paul. L.A.’s backcourt is letting him shoot a ridiculous 53 percent from the field in this series — it’s easier to live with that if they keep him from getting the best shots in basketball: free throws and rim shots.