NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Sunday, February 23rd (All times Eastern)
Los Angeles Clippers (37-20) at Oklahoma City Thunder (43-13), 1 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The start of a six-game homestand didn't go as planned for the Oklahoma City Thunder, so they'll try to get back to their winning ways Sunday afternoon versus the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Thunder started the residency with Thursday's 103-81 loss to the two-time defending champion Miami Heat. Miami's big three of LeBron James (33), Dwyane Wade (24) and Chris Bosh (24) matched Oklahoma City's point total and helped the Heat to a 34-17 lead after the first quarter.
"The first few possessions we started out strong," Thunder star Kevin Durant said. "Then they started moving the basketball really quick and opened up the lead."
Oklahoma City was led by NBA leading scorer Durant (31.4 ppg), who scored 28 points on 10-of-22 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. Russell Westbrook made his return to the floor and scored 16 points. It was his first action since Christmas Day because of knee surgery.
Westbrook played nearly 24 minutes and was happy to return in front of the home crowd.
"We have the best fans in all of sports," Westbrook said. "They did a great job of lifting me up and cheering as loud as they could which is a great feeling."
The Thunder, who had a three-game winning streak stopped and are three games ahead of San Antonio for the West's top seed, had nine of their 20 turnovers in the first quarter and trailed by as many as 19 points in the second half.
"One thing I know about our guys is that we'll get back into the gym tomorrow, bounce-back, and get ready for the next game," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said afterward.
OKC had won nine in a row at home and owns a 23-4 mark at Chesapeake Energy Arena this season. Cleveland, Memphis, Charlotte and Philadelphia are also slated to visit the Thunder on their current stay.
Los Angeles opened a three-game southern junket with Friday's 102-96 loss at Memphis, as Blake Griffin finished with a double-double of 28 points and 13 rebounds. Griffin has scored 20 or more points in 15 straight games, posting an average of 29.9 points and 9.2 rebounds in that time.
Griffin and Jamal Crawford both missed open shots down the stretch for the Clippers, who have lost their first two games after the All-Star break and suffered a 113-103 setback to San Antonio on Tuesday.
"It was just one of those games that we missed a lot of easy ones," Griffin said. "Early, we were really running ourselves. We were moving the ball from side-to-side and getting where we wanted. Then we became complacent and didn't get where we wanted to."
Chris Paul finished with 18 points, 14 assists and six rebounds, and suffered a hand injury late in the game. Paul injured his hand trying to swat the ball away from Grizzlies forward Marc Gasol.
"On that last rebound that Gasol had," Paul said. "I got caught reaching."
Paul recently missed 18 games with a shoulder injury and is listed as probable against the Thunder. Paul against Westbrook is considered one of the top matchups in the league among point guards.
"It's tough," Paul said. "It's coming around. I just want to win so whatever I have to do to help us win, I'm with it."
The Clippers will close the road trip Monday at New Orleans and are 14-15 as the visitor this season. They have dropped three in a row on the road and are 6-8 as the visitor against teams from the West.
Sunday's game between the Clippers and Thunder features two of the top scoring teams in the league. L.A. is averaging 106.7 ppg and the Thunder have recorded a 104.6 ppg clip. The Clippers and Thunder have split the first two meetings this season and are slated to tangle again April 9 at Staples Center.
Los Angeles has lost five of the last six trips to Oklahoma City.
02/23 10:23:59 ET