- Tip-off: 7:00 p.m. CT
- Television:Fox Sports Oklahoma
- Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
After the Thunder swept its most recent home-road back-to-back at the beginning of the week, it had a chance to fly back to Oklahoma City and breathe deep. There are 29 days left in the Thunder’s schedule, yet Head Coach Billy Donovan and his squad only have to lace up 12 more times. Including on Thursday and Friday leading up to the Thunder’s home clash with the LA Clippers, the Thunder will have a good amount of time to get some well-deserved rest and some precious practice time.
On Thursday in preparation for the Clippers, the Thunder watched film, broke down defensive concepts, went through live contact on defense and then went through half-court offense and special situations, such as end-of-game and out-of-bounds plays. In the midst of a four-game win streak and now at 12 games above .500, the Thunder has made significant progress to thwart the adversity that has come its way. But that doesn’t mean the pursuit of improvement comes to a halt at all.
Thunder Talk: Coach Donovan</strong
“Our guys have made some really, really good, positive improvements, and you’re always fighting for that consistency because of the number of games that you’re playing,” Donovan noted. But I feel like we’ve improved and we’ve gotten better.
In order to turn this run into five straight victories, the Thunder will have to dispatch a charging Clippers team that is threatening to make the top 8 in the Western Conference standings. The Clippers defense has been able to stymie foes. Since the beginning of March, the Clippers have the 11th best defensive rating in the league. But with DeAndre Jordan commanding a ton of attention at the rim, Tobias Harris efficiently scoring inside and out and the dynamic scoring ability of Lou Williams, at its core the Clippers are a difficult matchup on offense.
“They’re obviously a really, really explosive offensive team,” Donovan began. “DeAndre Jordan is still one of the best rollers in the league, going to the rim and occupies a lot of pressure at the basket. And obviously with guys like Lou Williams, Tobias Harris, those guys are shooting the ball extremely well. Austin (Rivers), same thing.They’ve got an explosive team where they can score in the paint and they can score on the perimeter and obviously they get to the free-throw line.”
Along with the Thunder, the Clippers are one of eight teams that are solidly in the hunt for the final six playoff seeds in the Western Conference. At this point in the season, the weight of each game matters more and more. That doesn’t mean that the Thunder approaches these games differently, or spends time worrying about what some of its rivals are doing. Instead, this veteran Thunder group is focused on what it needs to do on a nightly basis - both with its own principles and based on opposing personnel - to get a win.
“We control what we can control, regardless of who we play,” forward Carmelo Anthony outlined. “At this point we control our own destiny, so everybody is fighting for a spot. So we’re gonna get teams’ best punch and we just got to be prepared for that. Especially coming down the stretch, coming down to the end of the season, every game is gonna be a playoff atmosphere, playoff games. So we got to start preparing ourselves for that.”
Thunder Talk: Carmelo Anthony</strong
- At practice on Thursday, Paul George and Steven Adams participated in a limited fashion, doing shooting drills and walking through things with the team. They did not do any contact work, and so their status for the Clippers game is uncertain at the moment.
- Since sitting out the Thunder’s game on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers on the second night of a back-to-back, Carmelo Anthony has come out firing from deep. 38 of Anthony’s 65 field goal attempts over the past five games have come from behind the three-point line, and he’s knocked down 18 of those attempts, good for 47.4 percent. The Thunder is 5-1 since Anthony’s night off, which ended up providing the longtime NBA veteran with three straight days without a game.
- “(We’ve) found him in some space to get him the ball in good spots of the floor,” Donovan noted. “We’ve gotten them some good looks, and he’s gotten into a rhythm of shooting the basketball.”
- All around the practice facility on Thursday and Friday, players and coaches were buzzing about the start of the NCAA tournament. Donovan was hoping to sneak a few minutes away to catch a little bit of the action on television in between breaking down film. Anthony has tried not to bring up his National Championship victory over Nick Collison’s Kansas Jayhawks out of politeness for the longest-tenured Thunder player. Anthony did, however, think back to the opening weekend of his only NCAA tournament appearance, when his Syracuse Orangemen took on Manhattan College in the first round. On that Manhattan team was Kenny Minor, Anthony’s childhood best friend, which made for an incredibly special start to March Madness.
- “For me to be playing up against him and to know growing up what we talked about about that moment and always talked about going to college together and playing in the NCAA Tournament, and to be able to have that matchup against him, that first half against him will always be very special to me,” Anthony reminisced.
Watch: Thunder-Clippers Game Preview</strong