PREGAME REPORT | JANUARY 22, 2013

 



Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. PST | Staples Center | Los Angeles, CA | Game Notes »

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RAFAEL GUERRERO

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As the NBA reaches the midpoint of the season, there are three teams with more than 30 victories after 40-plus games. Two of them will square off Tuesday night at Staples Center, with the winner owning the best record in the league.

The Clippers (32-10) and the Oklahoma City Thunder (32-9) will face each other for the second time this season. The teams ranked No. 1 and 2 in the Western Conference with the Clippers trailing the Thunder by a half game along with the San Antonio Spurs for the best record in the NBA. Those three teams have separated themselves from the rest of the very tough West with the Memphis Grizzlies looking up at them from the No. 4 seed, 5.5 games back.

“It’s a big game for us. Every game is a big game for us,” Chris Paul said. “We’re the two teams at the top of the standings so we’re going to go for it.”

The Thunder pulled out the first meeting against the Clippers in Oklahoma City 117-111 in overtime back on Nov. 21. Blake Griffin led the way for the Clippers in that game with 23 points and Jamal Crawford dropped in 20 off the bench, but the dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 58 points to power the Thunder to the win after Paul missed a potential game-winner over Westbrook at the buzzer in regulation.

Paul has been slowed of late by a bone bruise in his right kneecap. After a season-low four points Monday, Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said the team’s training staff will re-evaluate Paul Tuesday to determine his status against the Thunder.

“I’ll talk to the medical staff, the trainer, and then I’ll talk to Chris to see how he feels and we’ll make that decision tomorrow,” Del Negro said.

CHRIS PAUL BOBBLEHEAD GIVEAWAY
TONIGHT vs. Oklahoma City
The first 18,000 fans in attendance will receive a Chris Paul Bobblehead courtesy of State Farm

LAST TIME OUT

Warriors 106, Clippers 99: Griffin flirted with a triple-double as he led the Clippers with 26 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists but the Warriors countered with 28 points from Stephen Curry and 18 points and 10 assists from Jarrett Jack off the bench to secure the victory.

“We missed some shots that we normally hit down the stretch,” Griffin said. “They got some open looks and we need to do a better job as a team from eliminating some of those open looks.”

The Warriors outscored the Clippers 33-19 in the fourth quarter and again hammered them from the outside, hitting on 12-of-22 from beyond the arc. It was the third victory for the Warriors against the Clippers. They are the only team this season to beat the Clippers multiple times.

The Clippers managed just two baskets over the final 3:40 and the Warriors capitalized, closing the game out on a 14-4 run.

Nuggets 121, Thunder 118 (OT): The Thunder had their six-game winning streak snapped in Denver on Sunday night despite getting 37 points from Durant and 36 from Westbrook.

When Westbrook was not rejecting half-court shots by “Rocky,” the Nuggets mascot, he was busy being extraordinary. He played 48 minutes in the game and hit 15-of-17 from the charity stripe. He also added nine assists and eight rebounds and sent the game into the extra period, hitting a long distance 3-pointer with 22.9 seconds left. It was the first time the Thunder has lost a game in overtime this season.

NOTEWORTHY MATCHUP

Westbrook and Durant vs. Griffin and Paul. There is no question the outcome of Tuesday’s game will ride on the performance of these four All-Stars. The Thunder are 20-5 this season when Westbrook and Durant score more than 20 points each, although one of those losses occurred Sunday in Denver.

Durant is coming off being named the NBA Western Conference Player of the Week after dropping a career-high 52 points in an overtime win at Dallas on Jan. 18. He averaged an otherwordly 37.5 points a game in four contests last week, recording a 30-point, 40-point, and 50-point game.

Westbrook was no slouch himself, averaging 33.8 points a game in those games last week. He also started a streak of four consecutive 30-point games in the process.

As for the Clippers stars, they have had their share of struggles despite the team’s four-game winning streak last week. Prior to his excellent outing at Golden State, Griffin averaged 16.5 points and just 6.3 rebounds a game during the team’s winning streak, shooting better than 50% from the field just once.

Paul did not play during the three-game road trip with a right knee injury. He scored 22 points and dished out 11 assists in his first game back against Washington on Saturday, but seemed to tweak the injury again in Monday’s loss at Golden State en route to just four points on 1-of-7 shooting.

TWO THINGS TO WATCH

Sixth Man Alert. The game will boast two of the top reserves in the league in Jamal Crawford and Kevin Martin. Crawford is averaging 16.5 points per game in 29.1 minutes a game off the bench. He has been particularly exceptional during the last five games. He has scored in double figures four times, including a 30-point performance in Houston where he hit 11-of-20 from the field.

Any questions or doubts about Martin replacing the hole left in the Thunder’s second unit by the departure of James Harden have been put to rest. He is averaging 15 points a game off the Thunder bench this year, shooting 43.1% from beyond the arc. He scored 18 points in the team’s loss at Denver and has scored in double figures in his last four games.

Controlling the 3-point Shot. The Clippers were burned by the 3-point shot on Monday in Golden State as they allowed the Warriors to shoot 54.5% from distance. It was the second time they allowed a team to shoot better than 44% on their 3-pointers, the first coming in their 104-101 loss to Orlando on Jan. 12.

The Thunder come into the game as the second-best 3-point shooting team in the NBA, hitting 38.8% of their shots. They have three players shooting better than 40% from distance: Martin, Thabo Sefolosha and Durant. Surprisingly, it is the second consecutive season that Sefolosha is shooting above 40% while Durant is hitting a career-best 40.4% of his 3-point attempts.

NOTES

Grant Hill is expected to play after sitting out the Clippers game against Golden State… The Clippers have failed to score 100 points in three straight games… The game will mark the midway point of the Thunder’s six-game road trip. They have split their first two games of the trip… The Clippers will play the Thunder one more time this season on March 3 at Staples Center.

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