Clippers-Thunder: Two slumping teams try to get untracked
Oklahoma City was flying high just a few days ago, as the Thunder entered Wednesday’s game at New Orleans with the best record in the Western Conference.
But the Thunder enter Friday’s home game against the Los Angeles Clippers needing to get things turned around, especially on the offensive side.
All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook was just 5 of 15 from the field in Friday’s 109-98 loss to Denver. Westbrook has made more than two 3-pointers in a game just once this season going into Saturday’s game.
The Thunder have been most effective this season when attacking the basket. But they have had problems recently as Westbrook has struggled offensively even on the inside, and Oklahoma City’s offense has grown stagnant at times.
“I think from an identity standpoint, the way we want to play — we want to play downhill,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said.
Westbrook has struggled offensive recently, shooting 42 of 110 (38.2 percent) from the floor in December.
The Thunder come into the game having lost two consecutive games for the first time since their 0-4 start to the season Oct. 16-25. Oklahoma City has lost three of its last four.
Oklahoma City, which coming off Friday’s loss to the Nuggets, is 2-1 this season on the second night of back-to-backs. The Thunder are near the start of a stretch in which they will play nine of 13 games on the road.
The Clippers have lost four of their last five after Thursday’s 125-87 loss to the Sours. That was the first of nine consecutive games against Western Conference opponents.
This has been Los Angeles’ roughest stretch of the season, and it hasn’t lost three in a row this year.
“It’s a long season,” Clippers guard Patrick Beverley said. “You play long enough the game teaches itself and it told us, as a unit, we can’t ease into games. That’s what we’re trying to do lately and we can’t do that. We’re not that good, not right now. But we can be.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers expanded his rotation recently, playing all his players who dressed — 12 total — at least nine minutes in Thursday’s blowout loss in San Antonio. Rivers is trying to keep his team fresh.
“I played a long time ago and I knew when I didn’t have energy, but it usually didn’t mean the next game I wouldn’t have energy,” Rivers said. “It means there were nights that I showed up (and) I tried to do everything I possibly could do to get ready and I came into the game and I just didn’t have it, unfortunately.
“They’re human and sometimes it happens. You know this is a long stretch, so you see it over and over again. What they’re telling you is they’re tired and you probably have to just try and play a bigger rotation, which sometimes you don’t want to do, but sometimes you have to do it.”
The teams have split their two meetings so far this season, with the Clippers winning 108-92 on Oct. 19 at home and the Thunder winning 128-110 on Oct. 30 at home.