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Thunder to boom

Alex says Oklahoma can enjoy more inter-conference success in LA

Alex Ferguson Posted 28th February 2013 view comments

Sky Sports will present an NBA double header on Sunday, with Miami Heat visiting the New York Knicks (6pm, Sky Sports 2 HD) and LA Clippers hosting Oklahoma City Thunder (8.30pm, Sky Sports 2 HD).

The second clash of the evening is one of the most anticipated on the schedule, as both teams battle it out for the number two seed in the Western Conference.

Alex Ferguson has more....

EXCUSE ME WHILE WE INTRODUCE OURSELVES

For years the butt of Lakers' fans jokes, the Los Angeles Clippers are suddenly the best team in Tinseltown by some margin. And there's no Oscar-worthy shenanigans involving high-profile players, it's just Blake Griffin and Chris Paul doing what they do best: leading the Clippers to wins.

Ibaka: Thunder man is the second-best shot blocker in the NBA

Ibaka: Thunder man is the second-best shot blocker in the NBA

The Clippers will host the new powerhouse on the block in the Oklahoma City Thunder. They fought the Miami Heat tooth and nail in the NBA Finals last year only to come up short, but the team has rebounded from the disappointment to be dominant once again.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are leading a team that's leading the whole league in scoring and is very fun to watch indeed - especially with their mediocre defensive efforts. After Golden State and Minnesota's unpredictably brilliant game last week, we can say this for certain: this is going to have fireworks.

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Heat @ Knicks
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Thunder @ Clippers
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WHY WILL THE CLIPPERS WIN?

The Clippers are going to win this one because they are excellent at home. They've got a 23-6 home record, and it's helped to give LA a dominant lead over the Warriors in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference.

Paul supplies the assists and Griffin supplies the points, and this, combined with excellence on 'D', is going to be too much for the Oklahoma City Thunder who don't exactly set the world on fire on the road... something that they are going to need to do at the Staples Center on Sunday night.

Defensively, the Clippers are extremely solid (fourth-best in giving up points in the NBA) and Paul's the man you want to watch on that side of the ball - he's the best ball-stealer in the league (2.49 per game, 117 total) so Oklahoma City's high-paced offense will not want to make any errors. Watch out for centre DeAndre Jordan with shot blocking, too.

Despite their own divisional race being over (they'll have wrapped it up April, folks!), the Clippers are still only two games behind Oklahoma City and four games behind San Antonio in the race for the No.1 seed in the play-offs.

They want the No.1 or No.2 seed badly. It's the sort of thing that'll help rub Lakers' fans faces in it. Oh, and it's a 'Hollywood' game, too - meaning that we expect the stars to come out. Just not Jack Nicholson or Adam Sandler.

WHY WILL THE THUNDER WIN?

The Thunder are going to win because they've got the best inter-conference record in the country (29-8), they've won the last three straight and the last seven out of 10; their form is frightening.

Despite us being rude about their away form at the start, they're actually pretty useful on the road - hence why it's them who've got the No.2 seed in the West, and not the Clippers. In fact, it'll be their keenness to keep the No.2 seed away from their rivals that will be the reason why they'll leave Tinseltown with victory on Sunday night.

The Thunder score nearly 107 points per game and Durant is on fire, having just come off scoring the third triple-double of his career against the lowly New Orleans Hornets.

And if you think they lack defence, then answer this question: if they are so mediocre, then why is Serge Ibaka the second-best shot blocker in the league (2.96 blocks per game), Durant the sixth-best defensive rebounder (411 total, 7.2 per game) and Westbrook amongst the game's best stealers (1.86 per game)? Kendrick Perkins is back from injury, which is going to be huge for them defensively, too.

One thing they've also added is experience in Derek Fisher. He arrived on Monday after coming out of retirement to try and win his sixth title. He'll be great for the young bucks of Oklahoma City - and particularly in big-time games like this one. And as a former Laker, he'll be especially hungry to beat the Clippers on Sunday.

FERGIE'S FORECAST: We're going for a road victory with Oklahoma City, although this one's going to be a classic.

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