Series Preview: Clippers vs Thunder, Game 1

Game 1 Line: Oklahoma City -5.5

Series Line: Los Angeles +155 / Oklahoma City Thunder -185

Two teams, both making headlines for different reasons, will do battle with a trip to the Western Conference Finals on the line.

For the Oklahoma City Thunder, “Mr. Unreliable” was the headline heard around the country. With the Thunder trailing 3-2 in the opening round of the playoffs, Kevin Durant made new headlines with his play over the final two games of the series against the Memphis Grizzlies. Durant responded with 36 and 33 points, putting the Thunder on his back and doing what a league MVP is meant to do.

While Durant was making a statement on the court, the Los Angeles Clippers owner was making statements off the court. Sadly, the Clippers headlines changed the course of the Clippers franchise forever. Their owner, Donald Sterling, was caught on tape making racist comments. Coming off a Game 4 loss, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life, forcing Sterling to sell the team. The Clippers rallied for a victory in Game 5, eventually leading through this tumultuous time to a Game 7 win over the Golden State Warriors in the first round.

Although both teams needed seven games to advance, these first round battles are a mere example of how deep and dominant the Western Conference really is. Having already split the season series this year, offensive fireworks are going to be on display in this matchup. With both teams clinching their series on Saturday night, they return to work on Monday night – Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.

There is certainly no star power lacking in the backcourt battle between Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul. While Westbrook is not your conventional point guard, his ability to get the basket is like no one else’s in the league. He’s aggressive, out of control at times, and always dynamic. With Westbrook, there’s the good and the bad. Averaging 25.6 points in the series against the Memphis Grizzlies, while Shooting 38% from the field, Westbrook has put up a lot of points, but he’s taking too many shots to get there. There’s no question though that his ability to score will be tested against Chris Paul, who wreaks havoc on the defensive end. Paul was simply sensational in his Game 7 performance. Paul is a dual threat who will look to agitate Westbrook all series long.

Although the point guard battle will be one to focus on, the spotlight will be on Durant. We have all seen what he’s capable of doing. We saw he struggled before the infamous headline appeared, but certainly resembled the league MVP after. Durant shot 44 percent and 32 percent from 3-point range in Games 1-5, but after the infamous headline, Durant’s shooting percentage elevated to 56 percent. If Durant’s excellent play continues, the Clippers are going to need their own MVP to go pound for pound with the league’s MVP.

It didn’t take long for Blake Griffin to become a star in this league. Granted, playing with Paul has certainly helped, but Griffin carried the Clippers when Paul was sidelined with a separated shoulder during the regular season.

In the opening round, the Thunder looked vulnerable. When Durant struggled, the team struggled. The Thunder can ill-afford to struggle against the Clippers simply because they will make you pay for your mistakes. With role players such as J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes and Sixth Man of the Year, Jamal Crawford, the Clippers depth is made up of vital contributors to the teams’ success. While Reggie Jackson played an integral role in the Grizzlies series, the Thunder do not have the same quality of players coming off the bench as the Clippers.

The Clippers franchise was shaken by the video of their racist owner. At first what affected their play, was then used as a rallying cry for the remainder of the series. When the buzzer sounded and Game 7 was in the books, head coach Doc Rivers pumped his fist in the air, celebrating like a man who just won an NBA championship. Rivers had already tasted championship success with the Boston Celtics, but this celebration was different. This was one of freedom, one of strength, and one that portrayed team unity in times of need.

The Clippers have taken their owner’s remarks, and have used it as fuel to keep them going. The tank might have been empty after Game 7, but it’s certainly full now. A 10-minute video changed the course of the 2014 NBA playoffs forever. And while the Clippers franchise was recently making headlines for the drama off the court, it’s about time they make headlines for their success on it.

There’s no doubt the Thunder have the best player in this series. However, the Clippers are going to prove to be the better team not only in this round, but something tells me they’re still going to be playing basketball in June too. So when a Caucasian hands the Larry O’Brien trophy to an African-American, don’t smile because justice has been served. Smile because the Clippers just won the NBA championship.

This will undoubtedly be a championship that will be well deserved and one that will be remembered forever.

My Game 1 Pick: Clippers +5.5 and Moneyline (+195)

My Futures Bet: Clippers Win NBA championship

May 5, 2014 by : Posted in Picks and Predictions No Comments
Adam Rosen

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Adam Rosen is a seasoned sports writer with special interests in Pro Football and Basketball. He has been picking sports games against the spread for years, and has posted a 56% win rate over his last 75 predictions.

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