Thunder Preps for Clippers

The Oklahoma City Thunder is out to prove a little something against the Los Angeles Clippers tonight. Believe it or not the Clippers are one of just two teams the Thunder has never beaten in Oklahoma City, the Celtics are the other. And the Thunder lost the first meeting of the season between the two teams, 107-92, in L.A.

“I think both teams are much better,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, “I know we’re definitely a better team. The experience of the season is getting us better, guys have bought into what we’re doing. So we’re a better team than we were back then, but they are too.”

The Clippers started the season 1-13, they’re 21-35 now but they’ve lost seven of their last nine games. The Thunder on the other hand have won seven of their last 10.

“And we always want more,” Brooks said, “that’s how this team is going to continue to improve. They want more practice, they want more reps, they want better games and we’ve always been that way. We’re a hungry group of guys.”

Clippers forward Blake Griffin will be playing his first NBA game back home in Oklahoma City and he will be the main focus of the Thunder defensive effort.

“Jeff (Green) will start out on him and then Serge (Ibaka), Nick (Collison) and Nenad (Krstic) everybody is gonna get a shot to guard him. I think what we have to do is try to take away his dunks. If we can take away those it puts us in a good position to contain him.”

The Thunder is healthy for tonight’s game the Clippers are not. Point guard Eric Gordon, the Clippers leading scorer, did not travel with the team as he continues rehabbing an injured wrist. Center Chris Kaman is back in the lineup though after missing 34 games with an ankle injury.

“He’s a good player,” Nenad Krstic told reporters, “I’m not sure what his conditioning is like after missing so many games but he’s good, he can post up he can shoot the ball well from outside. I’m sure he used this time during the All-Star break to get into better game shape and it will be tough to guard him.”

Oklahoma City has 28 games left on the schedule, 14 at home and 14 on the road, plus several sets of back-to-backs. In fact the first of those sets begins tonight with the Clippers and then a trip to San Antonio to play the Spurs tomorrow night.

“It’s a tough stretch but everybody has to play back-to-backs,” Brooks noted. “We just have to stay focused both mentally and physically.”

Tipoff is set for 7 P.M. inside Oklahoma City Arena.