Can Matt Barnes stop Kevin Durant again in Game 6 tonight?After two improbable comebacks in the last two games, what will the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder give us tonight in a must-win Game 6 for the home team (10:30 ET on ESPN)?
The Clippers are trying to stave off elimination and force a decisive Game 7, while the Thunder are looking to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the third time in the last four seasons.
How to stop Durant
If the Clippers are going to have any chance of winning, they’ll have to slow down Kevin Durant. Durant is averaging 30.8 points per game in the playoffs this season, the highest scoring average among all players.
However, the Clippers can find some hope in that Durant missed 16 of his 22 shots in Game 5. Matt Barnes served as Durant’s primary defender on nearly 80 percent of his half-court plays in Game 5 and Durant went just 2 of 14 from the field against Barnes.
Kevin Durant vs. Matt Barnes
Barnes was especially effective at forcing Durant into jump shots and getting a hand in his face while shooting.
Durant settled for a jumper on 11 of his 14 attempts against Barnes, missing all 11 of those jump shots.
Barnes was able to effectively close down on Durant, as all of Durant’s jumpers in Game 5 versus Barnes were pull-up attempts and nine of those 11 jumpers were contested.
Durant and Russell Westbrook have been a two-man show for the Thunder in the playoffs, accounting for a combined 58 points per game and 56 percent of the team’s total points.
Their combined scoring average would be the highest by any player-duo in the postseason since Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant combined for 59.1 points per game in the 2003 playoffs.
Teammates with 30+ PPG in Same Series
The two have been even better in this series, with Durant averaging 32.0 points and Westbrook putting up 29.6 per game.
If the two both average at least 30 points per game for the series, they’d become just the fourth pair of teammates in NBA postseason history to accomplish that feat, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Even by himself, Westbrook is having a historic postseason. Averaging 27.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 8.1 assists, Westbrook is on pace to join Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to average at least 27 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists in a single postseason.
Clippers long odds
Chris Paul has transformed the Clippers franchise since coming to L.A. three seasons ago – their 12 playoff wins since acquiring Paul are one more than they had in the previous 27 seasons combined.
Yet Paul and the Clippers still have one thing in common: they have never made a Conference Finals. The Clippers are 0-5 all-time in Conference Semifinal series while Paul has lost his two previous Conference Semifinal appearances.
If beating the MVP and the number two seed in the Western Conference isn’t hard enough, the Clippers also must overcome this looming statistic to reach their first Conference Finals: they are 0-5 all-time in best-of-7 series when trailing 3-2.