May 7, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) drives to the basket against Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) during the second quarter in game two of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Game 3 Preview: Clippers vs Thunder

Los Angeles Clippers vs Oklahoma City Thunder

Series Tied 1-1

TV: ESPN, Start Time: 7:30 P.M.

Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

The high flying Los Angeles Clippers return home tonight in already the most exciting series of the second round against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Both teams have had strong games already in this series and are showing why they are two of the top teams in the entire NBA. While the Clippers have put the Donald Sterling issue in the back of their minds, it’s still lingering in the air for Lob City. As for the Thunder, behind MVP Kevin Durant‘s stellar play and the feisty play of Russell Westbrook, look to take a hold in this series. The Clippers are looking to advance to their first ever Western Conference Finals while the Thunder are looking to continue their usual tradition and being a tough team.

In the first two games, we have seen two entirely different games. Game 1 was the Chris Paul show, making 8 3-pointers and finishing with 32 points and 10 assists. The Clippers seemed to take out all of their frustration on the Thunder and embarrassed the young team at their own home court. In Game 2, after Durant was presented with his MVP trophy, we saw a complete opposite of Game 1. Durant finished with a double double and Westbrook added a triple-double and they got the support from their role players, Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha.

It’s obvious to see that now the Clippers have taken over as the number one team in Los Angeles, and it’s going to show tonight. The Clippers are going to continue to have the great support from their fans tonight. The beauty of this series is that it’s one team versus another team. There’s no other drama going on or players struggling. It’s a straight dog fight.

The key for the Clippers tonight is to go back to their athletic big men. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are far more athletic than Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. And it’s not about running and gunning, but slowing the game down. The Clippers have a better half-court offense than the Thunder do, and they have to exploit that. Griffin needs to rise to the occasion and be a beast in the block. Even if he doesn’t get those awe-inspiring dunks, it would be much better to see Griffin beat Ibaka in the post. As for Jordan, he needs to play above the rim like he did against the Warriors. He needs to rebound better and score more than 7 points, as he has done in the first two games.

Paul also has to continue to lead this team. Just like Westbrook stepped up to defense Paul in Game 2, the Clippers’ point guard needs to step up and shut down the feisty point guard. We don’t need him to make it rain from behind the arc again, but he has to be aggressive tonight. When Paul is aggressive, good things happen for Lob City.

On the defensive side, it’s hard when you have Durant and Westbrook running full speed at you. The difference between the two games is that the Clippers let other players score on them. Sefolosha and Ibaka had double digit points and forced the Clippers to play defense on everyone. Matt Barnes has to shut down Durant when they’re on the floor together. If the Clippers can keep him in check, it may force Westbrook to start chucking up shots. And despite Durant saying he has Westbrook’s back, you know there will be frustration regardless.

Prediction: This game is going to be a good one. Ultimately, I think the Clippers ride the emotion of being back at home with their fans roaring behind them and win Game 3, 110-104.

Tags: Blake Griffin Chris Paul Kevin Durant Los Angeles Clippers NBA Russell Westbrook

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