What to watch: Clippers-Thunder

March, 21, 2012
3/21/12
10:51
AM PT
Clippers (26-19) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (34-12) at Chesapeake Energy Arena, 5:00 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Century mark: The Clippers have had a difficult time scoring over the past month. They have failed to score 100 points in seven straight games and have only hit the century mark twice in their last seven games. Their record in their last 17 games is 7-10. Suddenly one of the top five teams in the league in points and assists is in the middle of the pack and descending. Even in the two wins the Clippers had at the end of their six-game home stand last week, the Clippers averaged just 91.0 points on 40.5 percent shooting in those wins as Chris Paul made half of his 30 shots and totaled 42 points in both games.

2. Young starts: When Nick Young arrived in Los Angeles on Friday and made his debut with the team on Sunday, Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said the plan was for Young to start at some point. Well, apparently that point was 48 hours later as Young started for the Clippers against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. Young scored 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting in 36 minutes. He logged more minutes than any player on the team and finished with the third most points, just behind Paul, who finished with 16 points. It wasn’t a bad outing for Young but certainly went against Del Negro’s plan to bring Young along slowly.

3. Rotation confusion: One of the biggest problems for the Clippers this season is their constant roster changes have led to inconsistent rotations and many players not knowing what their role is on the team is. For example, Young was inserted as the Clippers’ starting shooting guard on Tuesday instead of Foye, who had started 28 games this season. So what did Foye do on Tuesday? He didn’t play. It was the first game he missed this season and it came because of the dreaded “DNP-Coach’s Decision.” On Sunday, one of the Clippers’ spark plugs off the bench, Eric Bledsoe, didn’t even get on the court but against Indiana he played 13 minutes. There’s certainly an argument to be made for match-ups, but there’s a bigger argument to be made for players simply not knowing what is expected of them on a nightly basis.

4. On the road again: The Clippers have now lost four of their last six road games and it will not get any easier in Oklahoma City. The Thunder have the third best home record in the NBA and registered a 14-game home winning streak earlier this season. Prior to the Thunder’s home loss against Cleveland on March 9, more than two months had elapsed between Thunder home losses. It will be a homecoming for Blake Griffin, who was born and raised in Oklahoma and played at the University of Oklahoma. Chris Paul also began his NBA career in Oklahoma City where the Hornets played for a couple seasons after Hurricane Katrina.

5. Nothing is free: There really should be another name for free-throws when the Clippers take them because they are far from a given. The Clippers as a team are shooting 68.6 percent from the charity stripe, which is second worst in the league. On Tuesday against the Pacers, the Clippers hit only 9 of their 20 free throws for a paltry 45 percent. The Clippers’ difficulty at the line should come as no surprise considering Blake Griffin (54.4 percent), DeAndre Jordan (48.1 percent) and Reggie Evans (48.3 percent) are three of the worst free-throw shooters in the league, and two of the three are usually on the court for the Clippers.

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Blake Griffin
PTS AST STL MIN
23.1 3.5 0.5 35.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsD. Jordan 12.2
AssistsC. Paul 9.9
StealsC. Paul 2.1
BlocksD. Jordan 2.5