Paris Lawson

Thunder Wraps Up Seeding Games with Clippers

Date: August 13, 2020

Tip-Off Time: 5:30 p.m. CT

Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma

Radio: 98.1 FM WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network

Thunder Status

The Thunder’s final seeding game comes on the heels of a wild 22-point come-from-behind victory over the Miami Heat on Wednesday in a game of dramatic runs. It was a 3-pointer by Mike Muscala that put OKC ahead by one point with five seconds left. To seal the deal, Terrance Ferguson locked in on defense, containing Tyler Herro on Miami’s last possession to force a miss and for the Thunder to walk away victorious.

For the second straight game, it’s been the Thunder reserves making headlines for their squad. After gaining valuable extended minutes on Monday against Phoenix, OKC’s second unit delivered on a monstrous 22-point comeback on Wednesday. Several Thunder reserves found their rhythm against the Heat. Particularly, Abdel Nader played a crucial role in the Thunder’s second-quarter surge by knocking down two momentum-shifting three pointers to aide in a 12-0 Thunder run.

In the second half, however, it was rookie Darius Bazley who once again stole the spotlight. Bazley erupted for 16 points in the fourth quarter by going 6-of-6 from the field and 4-of-4 from behind the arc. The rookie scored on everything from step-back 3-pointers to strong finishes at the rim to help bring his team back to within arm’s reach. “It just means that we have a real special group. Real cohesiveness and even though they switched some of the lineups they still had some really good players on the floor and so did we,” said Abdel Nader on his team’s resiliency throughout the game. “It was fun to be able to compete like that with the guys who might not be in the game during the end stretch like that and be able to get those kinds of opportunities.”

The Thunder will look to use this last opportunity of its abbreviated regular season to continue to develop its consistency and rhythm on both ends of the floor. The Thunder have been without Dennis Schröder for the majority of the seeding-games and await an update on Luguentz Dort’s status after a collision with Jae Crowder on Wednesday that kept him from returning to the game with a knee injury.

With the win on Wednesday, the Thunder secured its first-round playoff opponent against the Houston Rockets. Although the Thunder could still move to fifth in the standings, the matchup against the Rockets is set in stone and the Thunder currently hold the fourth seed.

Opponent Breakdown

With one final tune-up before the postseason, each team is looking to generate as much consistent rhythm as possible with as many healthy players as they can. This not only rings true for the Thunder, but for the Clippers as well. The number two team in the Western Conference who normally touts a player rotation that goes 10-deep, have yet to put together a full complement of players inside of the NBA’s campus in Orlando. The Clippers have had a fully healthy lineup on only 11 occasions this season and have been 10-1 in those games.

In their 124-111 win over Denver on Wednesday, the Clippers clinched the number two spot in the Western Conference standings for the first time in franchise history. They were without guard Patrick Beverly (calf strain), Montrezl Harrell (not with team) and Landry Shamet (foot sprain). However, even without three of their usual rotation players, the headlining backcourt of All-Stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George both delivered with 27 and 26 points respectively. During the restart, Leonard and Paul have averaged a combined 54.3 points per game and both rank in the top 10 in points per game in Orlando.

Matchup Focus

Outside of the usual suspects of Leonard and Paul, the Clippers’ bench is what bolsters its high-powered offense. The Clippers reserves lead the league in bench points per game (50.2) and percentage of points off the bench (43.3%).

Leading the charge for Los Angeles’ reserves are Sixth Man of the Year contenders in Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell who average 17 and 18 points per game respectively. In the Clippers’ last matchup against Denver, Williams recorded 23 points while dishing out seven assists.

Keep an eye out on the matchup between the Thunder and Clippers’ bench production and the impact each team’s reserves can make in the game.

Stat to Watch

Points off of Free Throws. The free throw line plays a major role in the offense of both the Clippers and the Thunder who rank first and second league in percentage of total points from the free throw line. The Clippers knock down the most free throws per game, while the Thunder make the fourth most.

In its game against Miami on Wednesday, the Thunder put an emphasis on defending without fouling after back-to-back-to-back possessions of and-one plays. Expect the Thunder to take the lesson from its defense against Miami and focus on applying disciplined, clean defense to Friday’s matchup with the Clippers.

Thunder Trend

Thunder rookie Darius Bazley has played a massive role for the Thunder in Orlando. The first-year power forward recorded a 21 point, nine rebound performance on Wednesday to notch his third straight game with over 20 points. This puts him in exclusive company in Thunder history next to Russell Westbrook as the only other player to accomplish such a feat.


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