Here they go again. Only seven days after a memorable ending involving the
There doesn't figure to be prayers for the Clippers as part of the Thunder's pregame invocation Wednesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena, but guess what? Oklahoma City won't be the only team with an edge.
"We'll be mad too," Clippers guard Jamal Crawford said in a departure from his usual nice-guy approach. "They're OKC. They're not the Clippers. We have to be mad at everybody."
The Clippers certainly played with rage over the final 5 1/2 minutes on March 2 at Staples Center. They obliterated a 14-point deficit and all reason against a team that features two of the NBA's top players in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, pulling away for an 103-98 victory.
The improbable comeback tied the season series between the teams, 1-1, but the Clippers have some catching up to do in the Western Conference standings. They trail the Thunder by 1 1/2 games for third place, a spot that should be coveted even if neither team will acknowledge it. The owner of that spot likely would avoid the Golden State Warriors before the conference finals.
The second of three meetings between the Clippers and Thunder in a 30-day span will help determine who gets a temporary detour around the team with the NBA's best record.
Not that the Thunder won't have additional incentive to beat the Clippers.
"Given what happened in L.A.," Clippers shooting guard J.J. Redick said, "I know they'll be ready to go."
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers dismissed the revenge angle, saying a second consecutive victory over the Thunder would be difficult for two other reasons.
"It's harder because it's there," Rivers said, referring to the Thunder's home court, "and they're good."
One of the knocks on Jeff Green has held up through his first eight games as a Clipper. He's been wildly inconsistent, scoring in bursts at times and largely disappearing on other occasions.
The forward missed all five shots against Dallas on Monday, his second scoreless performance in less than a week. He had also missed all seven shots against the Thunder on March 2. The upside for the Clippers was that they won both games, minimizing the impact of Green's off-nights.
Green has also had a couple of strong performances, scoring 22 points on nine-for-13 shooting against Sacramento and scoring 18 points against Phoenix.
Sometimes the inconsistency has shown up within the same game. Green scored 10 points in the first quarter against Atlanta on Saturday before scoring only four points the rest of the game.
Lance Stephenson, the player the Clippers gave up to acquire Green, has thrived in his first nine games with the Memphis Grizzlies. Stephenson is averaging 13.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists while shooting 52.7% in 23.4 minutes per game off the bench, far outpacing his production with the Clippers.
The Clippers also gave up a lottery-protected draft pick to acquire Green, who is averaging 9.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists while shooting 41.4% with the team.
CLIPPERS AT OKLAHOMA CITY
When: Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. PST.
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena.
On the air: TV: ESPN, Prime; Radio: 980, 1330.
Records: Clippers 41-21, Thunder 43-20.
Record vs. Thunder: 1-1.
Update: Oklahoma City nearly succumbed to a big second-half run — sound familiar? — Sunday against Milwaukee, the Bucks outscoring the Thunder, 24-4, at one point in the third quarter. Oklahoma City held on for a 104-96 victory but has won only four of its last 10 game as it tries to maintain its hold on third place in the Western Conference standings. At least the Thunder doesn't have any injuries to report unlike the Clippers, who will be without Blake Griffin (broken hand) and Luc Mbah a Moute (lacerated eyelid).