By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
It started innocently enough.
Since the Clippers are resting most of their main guys for tonight’s game and since Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka sat out the Thunder’s game in Detroit this week for the same reason Durant was asked how that went down. Did he go to the coaches and ask to rest or did they and the medical staff come to him?
“They knew I don’t like sitting out so they came to me kinda the sob way,” he joked. “They were like ‘bro we know you don’t wanna sit this one out but we think it would help.” Durant chuckled and said he told the staff, “Hey just ask me, if you don’t want me to play I won’t play.”
And then came the jab.
“I definitely wanted to play, but who gives a...I mean it’s Detroit who cares about Detroit.”
What he might have meant was who cares about Detroit’s point guard, former Thunder sixth man Reggie Jackson who clearly still has KD steamed over how he celebrated as the clocked ticked down on the Pistons’ win over a short-handed Thunder squad.
“It was bush league in my opinion, I mean jumpin’ up and down, running around. I mean I understand you won the game but our whole team didn’t play. We woulda beat the hell outta them if we did. I know I don’t usually talk like that but it pissed me off.”
Durant and Jackson used to be the best of buddies but that relationship has sailed away.
“What can I do? Some guys are who they are.”
Now About Tonight’s Game...
On the schedule it looks like a pretty attractive matchup and before the season started it was even more so which is the main reason TNT chose tonight’s late season Thunder-Clippers game for national TV.
But now with the season winding down and both teams pretty much locked into their current playoff positions some of the usual star power will be missing.
The Thunder were expected to go with their regular starters tonight since both Durant and Ibaka sat out Tuesday’s game at Detroit but that might change now after Clippers coach Doc Rivers raised the white flag early.
L.A. will be playing its fourth game in five nights and after clobbering the Timberwolves in Minneapolis last night Rivers told reporters he plans to sit Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick. Former OU star Blake Griffin was already going to miss his OKC homecoming while he serves out a suspension for that fight with a team staff member earlier this season.
Thunder coach Billy Donovan doesn’t usually meet with reporters on shootaround days so we won’t know what his plans for resting any players or not until he addresses the media for his pregame chat about 90 minutes before tipoff.
More than likely the Thunder regulars will start and try to put the game away early and then take the fourth quarter off.
Durant admitted these sorts of games can be tough at times.
“These games are hard when you’re not playing their best players thinking mentally you can come out and relax.”
And that was probably exactly what happened last Saturday when the Spurs rested all their stars but still led by nine points almost halfway through the second quarter.
“We figured it out after a while,” Durant said, “and got it goin and we gotta have that same mindset tonight.”
One guy the Thunder will see a lot of tonight is Jamal Crawford, a former NBA Sixth Man of the Year and may be again this season.He has scored at least 15 points off the bench in 25 games this season (tops in the NBA) and he leads the Clippers with 326 fourth quarter points.
“He’s always aggressive, I played with him years ago,” pointed out Thunder shooting guard Anthony Morrow. “That’s how he plays all the time. But I think it’s more about us we just need to come out and play good team defense.”
As far as the matchup goes it’s a little hard to tell since we don’t know for sure who’ll be in the lineup but the Thunder are 2-1 against the Clips this season and 5-5 over the last 10 games.
Over those 10 games the Thunder have a statistical advantage in almost every major category outshooting them 46.5% to 44.9% overall and 33.5% to 33.1% on threes. OKC has outscored the Clippers 107.9 to 105.9...Outrebounded them 46.4 to 40.6 and OKC has averaged blocking 4.6 shots in those 10 games against L.A. while the Clippers have swatted 3.1 per game against the Thunder. The Clips have the advantage in assists (24.8 to 24.0) and steals (9.8 to 7.3).
Provided Durant and Russell Westbrook play tonight there are a couple of items that will be interesting to watch. KD has a streak of 59 straight games scoring at least 20 points and Westbrook has recorded 16 triple-doubles this season and seven this month.
If he gets another one tonight he’ll break Michael Jordan’s record for most triple-doubles in a month and tie Magic Johnson for the most triple-doubles in a season since 1988-89.
So maybe there will be some intrigue tonight.
Remember tipoff is late, approximately 8:40, since it's the second game of the TNT national TV double-header. As usual we'll have full coverage. You can follow me on Twitter @RandyRenner for live updates from the arena beginning at about 5:30 then we'll also have blogs and videos after the game with reaction from the Thunder lockerroom.