Thunder at Clippers
Chris Paul looked just fine in his return from a knee injury on Saturday, but testing it a second time did not produce the desired results. Paul will see how it holds up on the second night of a back-to-back when the Los Angeles Clippers host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday. Paul struggled to four points in a loss at Golden State on Monday and labored at times in the second half.
The Thunder, who lead Los Angeles and the San Antonio Spurs by a half-game for first place in the Western Conference, had a six-game winning streak snapped in an overtime loss at Denver on Sunday. Oklahoma City remains the only team in the NBA to have single-digit losses thanks in part to the boasting the top-scoring offense in the leagues. Kevin Durant has been on fire of late and Chris Paul will have his hands full trying to guard Russell Westbrook at less than 100 percent.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Oklahoma (Oklahoma City), Prime Ticket (Los Angeles), NBATV
ABOUT THE THUNDER (32-9): Oklahoma City has played seven of its last nine games on the road and will play four more away before getting home on Jan. 31. Any fatigue that the team might be suffering has shown up on the defensive end the past two games, when the Thunder have been forced into overtime at Dallas and at Denver. Durant’s career-high 52 points helped them pull out the 117-114 win at Dallas but 37 from the MVP candidate was not enough in the 121-118 setback against the Nuggets. Durant is averaging 37.5 points over his last six games and has gone 41-of-42 from the free throw line in the last two contests. Westbrook nearly matched Durant with 36 points on Sunday and has gone over 30 points in four straight. Durant went for 35 points while Westbrook collected 23 and nine assists in a 117-111 overtime victory over Los Angeles on Nov. 21.
ABOUT THE CLIPPERS (32-10): Paul missed three straight games with a bruised kneecap but returned on Saturday and went for 22 points and 11 assists in a win over the Washington Wizards. The All-Star went 1-for-7 from the field in Monday’s 106-99 loss at Golden State, prompting coach Vinny Del Negro to tell reporters, “You could see he doesn’t have that extra burst like he usually has.” Paul will be a game-time decision for Tuesday. Aside from Paul’s performance, the big letdown Monday was by the defense, which allowed the Warriors to put up 33 points in the fourth quarter. Los Angeles is among the best teams in the NBA in terms of scoring defense and had held its previous two opponents under 90.
1. Oklahoma City has lost in each of its last four trips to face the Clippers.
2. Los Angeles F Blake Griffin scored 23 points in the first meeting and has averaged 21.3 points and 10 rebounds in nine career games against the Thunder.
3. Oklahoma City’s 13-6 road record is tied with the Clippers for tops in the Western Conference.