NBA Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals: #3 Los Angeles Clippers vs #2 Oklahoma City Thunder

2014 NBA Playoffs
Western Conference Semifinals

#2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs #3 Los Angeles Clippers
Best of seven series format: 2-2-1-1-1
Odds to win series: Thunder -210 / Clippers +175 (courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbooks)

Game #1 – Monday, May 5, 2014, 9:35 pm Eastern, TV: TNT
Chesapeake Energy Arena – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Opening Line: Oklahoma City -5
Current Line: Oklahoma City -5
Opening Total: 211
Current Total: 212 1/2
Opening Money Line: Thunder -215 / Clippers +182
Current Money Line: Thunder -220 / Clippers +185

The Thunder and Clippers meet in the Western Conference Semifinals. Game one is Monday night in Oklahoma City.
The Thunder and Clippers meet in the Western Conference Semifinals. Game one is Monday night in Oklahoma City.

The Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers both survived tough seven game series in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. Now the two teams meet in the playoffs for the first time in the conference semifinals for the right to advance to the Western Conference finals against either the San Antonio Spurs or Portland Trail Blazers. Game one is Monday night in Oklahoma City.

Los Angeles won the Pacific Division for the second straight year with a 57-25 record. The Clippers were the #3 seed in the west. LA had a chance to catch OKC for the #2 seed on the last night of the regular season had the Clippers won and the Thunder lost. However, the Thunder won their game to clinch the #2 seed. Los Angeles was matched up with Pacific Division rival the Golden State Warriors in the first round. After losing the first game at home, LA won the next two games to take control of the series. However, after that the team faced a massive off court distraction as team owner Donald Sterling was caught on tape making horribly racist comments, that eventually led to him being banned from the league for life. The NBA is in the process of making Sterling sell the franchise. The Clippers overcame that disruption to win the series in seven games, including 126-121 in game seven Saturday night at home. It was only the fourth series win for the franchise since Sterling bought the team in 1981.

Oklahoma City won the Northwest Division with a 59-23 record, three games behind the Spurs for the best record in the league. The Thunder were matched up with the #7 seed Memphis Grizzlies. It was the third time in the last four seasons that the teams met in the playoffs. OKC overcame series deficits of 2-1 and 3-2 to win the series in seven games. The series was the first in NBA history to have four straight games that went into overtime. Memphis won 3 of those games. The Thunder faced elimination in game six on the road but won that game by 20 points to force game seven. Before Saturday’s game seven, Memphis forward Zach Randolph was suspended by the league for throwing a punch to Thunder center Steven Adams late in game six. Memphis took a 9 point lead at the end of the first quarter, but OKC would outscore them by a combined 22 points in the second and third quarters to take control of the game. The Thunder would cruise to a 120-109 win.

The Clippers and Thunder split the regular season series 2-2.  Los Angeles won at home 111-103 November 13 and in Oklahoma City 125-117 February 23. Oklahoma City won at home 105-91 November 21 and in LA 107-101 April 9.

Los Angeles is coached by Doc Rivers. The Clippers are 48-40-1 ATS this season and the total is 49-39-1 this season.

LA is outscoring teams 108-101. The Clippers led the league in scoring during the regular season and were #14 in points allowed. Los Angeles is shooting 47.4% from the field and 35.2% from 3 point range. The Clippers are #3 in field goal percentage and #22 in three point shooting. LA is #26 in free throw shooting at 73% from the field. Opponents are shooting 44.1% from the field and 33.2% from 3 point range. The Clippers lead the league in 3 point defense and are #5 in opponents’ field goal percentage. Los Angeles averages 43 rebounds per game and opponents average 43.7 per game. LA is #25 in rebounds allowed. The Clippers average 24.6 assists, 13.9 turnovers, 8.6 steals and 4.9 blocks per game. Opponents average 23.3 assists, 15.4 turnovers, 7 steals and 3.5 blocks per game.

In the playoffs, Griffin is averaging 23.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. Point guard Chris Paul averages 17.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 9 assists, and 3.1 steals per game. Paul led the league in assists and steals during the regular season. He battled a sore hamstring during the whole series against the Warriors, but is listed a probable for game one against OKC. Guard Jamal Crawford averages 16.7 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. He was named the NBA sixth man of the year last week. Guard J.J. Redick averages 14.3 points, 2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Guard Darren Collison averages 9.6 points, 1.4 rebounds and 3 assists per game. Center DeAndre Jordan averages 12.1 points, 15.1 rebounds, and 4 blocks per game. Jordan led the league in rebounding and was third in blocks per game.  Forward Matt Barnes averages 8.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. Danny Granger, Glen Davis, Jared Dudley, and Willie Green will also get significant minutes. Forward Hedo Turkoglu is doubtful with a back injury after missing the last two games.

Oklahoma City is coached by Scott Brooks. OKC is 45-40-3 ATS and the total is 47-41 this season.

Oklahoma City is outscoring teams 106-100 this season. The Thunder are #5 in scoring and #12 in points allowed. OKC is shooting 47.1% from the field and 36.1% from 3 point range. The Thunder are #6 in field goal percentage and #14 in three point shooting. Oklahoma City is second in  the league in free throw shooting at 80.6% from the line. Opponents are shooting 43.6% from the field and 35.8% from 3 point range. The Thunder are #3 in opponents’ field goal percentage. Oklahoma City averages 44.7 rebounds per game and opponents average 40.9 per game. The Thunder are #7 in rebounding and #3 in rebounds allowed. OKC averages 21.9 assists, 15.5 turnovers, 8.2 steals and 6.1 blocks per game. Opponents average 21.8 assists, 15.1 turnovers, 8.3 steals and 3.6 blocks per game.

Forward Kevin Durant is expected to be named the league MVP for the first time in his career later this week.  He will be the first player to win MVP and the scoring title in the same season since Allen Iverson in 2002. In the playoffs he is averaging 29.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.6 blocks per game. Until games six and seven of the Memphis series, Durant struggled with his shot. Point guard Russell Westbrook averages 25.6 points, 9.7 rebounds, 8 assists and 1.6 steals per game. He is playing some of the best basketball of his career as well since he returned from knee surgery in late February. Forward Serge Ibaka averages 13 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1 assist and 2.6 blocks per game. Ibaka was second in the league in blocks.  Guard Reggie Jackson averages 12.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. Forward Caron Butler, acquired at the trade deadline from the Milwaukee Bucks, averages 7.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1 assist and per game. Jeremy Lamb, Thabo Sefolosha, Derek Fisher, Nick Collison, Perry Jones, Kendrick Perkins, and Steven Adams will also get significant minutes in the rotation.

Los Angeles is 5-2 ATS on one day rest, 1-4 in second round playoff games, overall, against Western Conference teams, after the opponent allows 100 points or more in the previous game, and after scoring 100 points or more, 2-8 against teams with winning records, 0-4 after a straight up win, in road games and  against teams with winning home records. The over is 9-3 in this series recently including 5-1 in Oklahoma City. The Clippers are 13-5 ATS in their last 18 trips to Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City is 3-1-1 ATS against Pacific Division teams, 10-4-2 at home, 19-9-2 on one day rest, 2-5 after the opponent allows 100 points in the previous game, 3-8 in Monday games, and 0-5 in second round playoff games. The Thunder are 5-2 ATS in the last 7 games against the Clippers.

Durant needs to be more aggressive like he was in game six and game seven against the Grizzlies. It will also help if Westbrook passes more like he did in the two wins. Los Angeles really has no answer for Durant or Westbrook, especially if Paul is still hobbled by the injury. Ibaka can somewhat contain Griffin, and the Perkins/Adams combo will keep Jordan from dominating the boards like he did against the Warriors. The Clippers are playing with a lot of emotion, and the Sterling scandal might have brought them closer as a team. Still, I like the Thunder in game one, and to win the series in six games.

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