Clippers (34-23) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (42-15) at Chesapeake Energy Arena, 5 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Dynamic duos: As good as the duo of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have been this year, nothing in the league has compared to the tandem of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook this season. Durant and Westbrook are currently the highest scoring duo in the NBA, averaging a combined total of 51.8 points per game. Against the Denver Nuggets on Feb. 19, the duo combined for 91 points with Durant scoring 51 points and Westbrook adding 40 points. They became the first pair of teammates in NBA history to each score at least 40 points on two separate occasions during a single season. Meanwhile in L.A., with Griffin averaging over 20 points and Paul averaging over eight assists per game, the duo is the first set of Clippers teammates with those numbers in the same season since 1993-94. The Clippers have only had six other teammates average at least 20 points and 8 assists per game since moving to Los Angeles in 1984.
2. Tough trip: The Clippers will play six of their last nine games on the road, including three sets of back-to-back games away from home. After losing to the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, the Clippers are now 13-14 on the road this season. The Clippers are attempting to finish the season with a .500 or better road record for the first time since 1984. The most road wins for the Clippers was 20 when they went 20-21 during the 2005-06 season. The Clippers lost to Oklahoma City when they last played the Thunder in March. Earlier this season, the Thunder registered a 14-game home winning streak which represented the longest home win streak for the Thunder franchise since the 1994-95 season when they were the Seattle Sonics.
3. Playoff positioning: With only nine games left in the season, both the Thunder and the Clippers are still vying for seeding in the playoffs and a loss by either team on Wednesday will likely move them down in the standings. Only one game separates the Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs for the top overall seed in the West and only a half game separate the Clippers and the Grizzlies for the fourth seed. “We are going back and forth,” Griffin told reporters Monday when asked about the Clippers and Grizzlies. “We very likely could (meet in the playoffs), and we are excited about that.”
4. CP3 closing out: Clippers guard Chris Paul has been one of the best players in the NBA this season and one of the top five players in the fourth quarter. Against Memphis on Monday night Paul scored 9 of his 21 points in the final 12 minutes. This season, in the last five minutes of games with the Clippers within 5 points, Paul is third in the NBA with 119 points. He is only behind Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant in such situations. Paul is the only player in NBA with at least 19.0 points, 9.0 assists and 2.0 steals this season and is third in the NBA in assists, first in steals and second in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.30).
5. Elite Griffin: He may be rubbing some people the wrong way this season but Blake Griffin is building off of his stellar rookie season with one of the better seasons for a front court player. Griffin is the only player in the league this season with over 20.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. He is also one of only two players, along with Dwight Howard, averaging at least 20.5 points, 11.0 rebounds and shooting 54.0% from the field. He is also the first player since Shareef Abdur-Rahim in 1996-1998 to have attempted over 1,100 free throws in his first two seasons.