Los Angeles Clippers (47-27) @ Oklahoma City Thunder (25-49)
Chesapeake Energy Arena
6:30 p.m. PST
March 31, 2016
1. Bookies have OKC favored by 8.5 points for tomorrow night. Take it or leave it?
Roscoe Whalan (@RoscoeWhalan): Well, if reports are true that both DeAndre and Chris are having the night off then I’ll absolutely take it. Side note: this is a nationally televised game so resting his stars is very Pop-esque of Doc, and surely set to make this contest a total stinker. It’s the fourth game in five nights for LA and unless Cole Aldrich has a revenge game for the ages then I’ll mark this one down as a L for the Clippers.
Michael Shagrin (@mshaggy): Take it. Without Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, and J.J. Redick, we’ll probably get a steady dose of Austin Rivers iso’s. This will have what we’ll politely call a negative impact on the Clippers offense. Russell Westbrook will smell blood. He will terrorize the coach’s son. He will continue his march to the single season triple-double record. He will tear out your heart and then bring it to your funeral in a brown paper bag. Wait, what was the question?
Aaron Williams (@aaronsmarter): Take it and finally put a down payment on a new car, so I can stop taking the bus. I believe in the Clippers. These two teams have traded the win back and forth in each of their last 6 meetings. It’s the Clippers’ turn, to be honest.
2. Which team is more jinxed in the Playoffs: Los Angeles or Oklahoma City?
Whalan: Maybe the sample size isn’t big enough to answer this for either team. The Thunder missed the postseason last year altogether and both the Clippers and Thunder have been derailed by injuries in the previous post-season campaigns. When the Thunder made the Finals back in 2012 many thought it would be the beginning of a string of appearances deep in June — probably with the Clippers in hot pursuit. However, the Warriors have crashed that party in a serious way and now, perhaps the question is, which one of these two teams is closer to overcoming the Golden State hurdle? Are they both now stuck on a depressing treadmill of excellence while simultaneously being simply not good enough to break through the glass ceiling?
Shagrin: Let’s not get forget that the stink of Donald Sterling can’t be washed away with just a Microsoft-style launch party and a well-dressed vulture. The answer is the Clippers and will always be the Clippers. Now please excuse me while I dispose of any sharp objects in preparation for the postseason.
Williams: I don’t believe in jinxes. Both teams have had problems with health, and at any given time both are subject to the performance of their respective star pairs; the Thunder largely don’t have have anyone who can score outside of Russ and Kev, while the Clippers have plenty of guns in the front, struggling to carry a bench that may as well be an anchor. However, I do think the odds favor the Thunder, if only because the general social mood favors the Thunder, and those little biases can affect how players play, coaches coach, and refs swallow their whistles in the last 2 minutes of close games.
3. Which Clipper will be affected most negatively by the return of Blake Griffin?
Whalan: DJ. After thinking about defecting to Dallas in the off-season to be a star, he became second-fiddle in the worst possible way for Clippers fan with Blake out of the line-up for an extended period of time. He’s flourished as a pick-and-roll big man next to CP3 but the return of Blake will chew up a lot of his touches and he’ll probably have to revert to more of the traditional garbage man role on offense. That said, this is excellent news for the Clippers, who will hopefully be better off having survived life without Blake.
Shagrin: Lukewarm take alert: probably Blake Griffin. The conventional wisdom has coalesced into “Blake’s return will be overly and unfairly scrutinized.” This is silly. He accounts for nearly 20% of the Clippers payroll and the team’s record was substantially better without him (17-13 before the injury, 30-14 since). It would be difficult to justify not entertaining the idea that $20 million a year might be better spent elsewhere. If there’s a noticeable disruption in the Clippers’ chemistry or, worse, a prolonged slide that continues into the playoffs, it’s Blake’s future in Los Angeles that will be most negatively affected.
Williams: Probably DJ, if we’re being 100% honest. A large part of his monstrous rebounding is due to not having to share those numbers with his front court partner, who will also suck up a lot of touches in the post, where DJ is most affected. Hopefully, Doc finally figures out how to stagger his big 3, and the other players remember who is most important in each lineup to maximize the efficiency of their 70% shooter (on dunks and jump hooks, sure but still. 70%.), along with their do-it-all workhorse and court tyrant –err, general.