DEFENDING DURANT A TALL TASK
OKLAHOMA CITY – DeAndre Jordan is 6-foot-11. He’s got arms long enough to touch the rim flat-footed. He took 41 shots outside of the restricted area all season.
Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, the league’s top scorer and likely MVP, similarly tall and long, shoots from anywhere. He has a shot chart that looks like staring at a nightscape of stars.
“Durant’s my height and he’s shooting 10 feet behind the 3-point line,” Jordan said. “A lot of times when he makes shots like that Matt [Barnes] is in him, Danny [Granger] is in him or Jared Dudley plays great defense. We’ve just got to live with those shots.”
Heading into the opener of the Clippers’ Western Conference Semifinal series with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Jordan said the Clippers have to, among other things defensively, have a “very short” memory.
“As long as we play good defense and make it a tough shot for them, we’ve just got to live with it,” Jordan said at shootaround Monday morning at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
But Durant and his scoring partner, Russell Westbrook, make defense a challenge. No matter how good it is. They pressure teams in transition because of their athleticism and because the Thunder force 15.2 turnovers per game.
“We’ve got to get back in transition and stop the ball and load up to [Durant] and [Westbrook] as much as possible,” Jordan said. “We have to limit those guys to just one shot. That means controlling the glass. And make them hit tough shots. They already have the MVP and two of the best scorers in our league. We can’t get give them any easy looks.”
While Westbrook and Durant share the scoring, accounting for 50.7 percent of Oklahoma City’s total offense, it seemingly begins with trying to harness Durant, something Memphis was able to do for a brief stretch of their first-round series with the Thunder. Durant scored 30 points or more in four games. But shot 42 percent or worse in Games 2-4.
Memphis had Tony Allen. The Clippers have a team defense that ranked fifth in field goal percentage and hovered around the top 10 in efficiency all season.
“Kevin Durant’s the best scorer in the league and we just came off of maybe the other one in [Stephen] Curry,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “I think when you play Durant the whole team is going to have to guard him. Everyone’s going to get a piece of him because he’s that good.”
Chris Paul says his thumb and hamstring are “good.”
Rivers added that the team is in general fairly healthy after a grueling seven-game series with the Warriors.
“We’re pretty good [health-wise],” Rivers said. “Chris looks good. He’s moving pretty good. He played a lot of minutes the other night and came out of it well.”
Forward Hedo Turkoglu remains out due to a hairline fracture in the transverse process in his lower back. He sustained the injury in Game 5 against the Warriors on Apr. 29 and has not played since.
“They say day-to-day but I don’t know what that actually means,” Rivers said. “Just watching him move he’s not going to play in either of the first two games that’s for sure.”
With Turkoglu inactive, Reggie Bullock, who spent some time guarding Durant during the regular season, will be the Clippers’ 13th active player in Game 1.