Clippers, Thunder collide in battle of teams in limbo
OKLAHOMA CITY — Two teams in transition meet Friday night in Oklahoma City.
The Thunder were supposed to challenge the Golden State Warriors for supremacy in the Western Conference with the additions of Carmelo Anthony and Paul George.
The Los Angeles Clippers figured to be a team undergoing some growing pains as they adjusted to life after Chris Paul, with Blake Griffin as the main offensive focus.
The expectation is becoming reality for the Clippers (5-5). Los Angeles has lost five out of six games following a four-game winning streak to start the season.
Meanwhile, the Thunder are struggling to find an offensive rhythm, looking disjointed at times as they adjust to life with two new offensive stars on their roster. Oklahoma City (4-7) dropped its fourth consecutive game Thursday night, falling 102-94 to the Denver Nuggets.
“We’re going to have to have more stamina and more consistency for 48 minutes,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.
Oklahoma City has yet to win against a Western Conference opponent or without Russell Westbrook registering a triple-double.
The Thunder also are failing in close games, losing the last four contests by a combined 27 points.
Clippers guard Patrick Beverley, after playing 30 minutes on Tuesday in Los Angeles’ 120-107 loss at San Antonio, was sent back to Los Angeles and ruled out for the last two games of the road trip with a sore right knee.
“It’s the same thing that kept him out of the second half of camp,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, “but he’ll be fine. That’s the good news. We were worried that it could be worse, and it’s not, but he’s still probably going to miss a week of games. So it’s just another guy out.”
Beverley is far from the only Clippers player dealing with an injury.
Point guard Milos Teodosic has been out since Oct. 21 after sustaining a plantar fascia injury in his left foot. Small forward Danilo Gallinari missed the Tuesday game with a strained right glute and will sit out Friday as well.
On Thursday, Clippers guard Austin Rivers sprained his right ankle in practice. He is questionable for the Friday game.
If the younger Rivers can’t go, rookie guards Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell figure to play greater roles.
During the current three-game losing streak, the Clippers are giving up more than 112 points per game.
“We should be one, two, three, four, five — a top-five defensive team, without a doubt,” Doc Rivers said. “So the fact that teams are hanging up these amount of points on us, we have to figure out whatever we have to figure out. But it’s getting ridiculous.
“We’re going to figure it out and we’re going to get back to where we need to get, because if we do this, we’re not going to win games. You’re just not going to win. You can’t play to win if you’re scoring 115 and you’re still losing.”
Oklahoma City could be without a key piece against the Clippers as well. Center Steven Adams left the Thursday game in Denver with a calf contusion, and he will be evaluated Friday before the game.
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