Westbrook Will Play
This will be the second of a back-to-back for the Thunder (40-34-2 ATS, 39-37 O/UT at sportsbooks). They entered Tuesday's matchup at Sacramento on a two-game skid, allowing 111 points in a four-point defeat last Friday in Houston to a Dwight Howard-less Rockets team and then 122 in a seven-point loss at Phoenix on Sunday.
There was a bright spot against the Suns. Kevin Durant had his 41st straight game with at least 25 points, taking sole possession of third place with that kind of streak. Durant has admitted he could care less about it and wants it over. Also, center Kendrick Perkins played his second game since Feb. 20 and had four points and three rebounds in 13 minutes. All the Thunder want from Perkins is about 15-20 minutes a night and a bit of defense and rebounding. Any offense is gravy. He played Tuesday night against the Kings and Coach Scott Brooks said he would in this one as well, his first back-to-back since returning.
Because of the back-to-back situation, Russell Westbrook did not play Tuesday. No surprise that Brooks is saving him for this crucial game back in his hometown area. Westbrook appears nearly back to full health, but the team doesn't want to risk extra stress on his surgically-repaired knee. He has totaled 60 points and 14 assists in two April games. Westbrook has played in all three Clippers games this year but averages only 14.7 points on 34.1 percent shooting.
Los Angeles leads the NBA in scoring and has put up at least 107 points in each of the past six games, winning five of them. On Sunday the Clippers blew out the Lakers for the third straight time 120-97, winning for the 34th time in 35 tries this season when making at least nine 3-pointers. They are the third team in NBA history with three wins in a season by at least 20 points against the Lakers. The previous two, the 1957-58 Celtics and 1966-67 Warriors, each made the NBA Finals (both lost there).
The Clippers (44-33-1 ATS, 41-36-1 O/U at sportsbooks) are close to being whole again. Shooting guard J.J. Redick has been back for two games after missing the previous 25 with a bulging disc in his back. He moved back into the starting five against the Lakers and was 7-for-11 from the field for 15 points in 24 minutes. Darren Collison, who had largely been starting with Redick and Jamal Crawford out, went back to his spot as the leader of the second team. He played 10 more minutes than Redick and had 14 points and six assists vs. the Lakers. Collison should continue getting more minutes overall. Crawford missed his fourth straight game with a calf injury and probably won't return until the playoffs. Crawford has barely played in the last month because of the problem, and it may cost him the Sixth Man of the Year Award. Danny Granger has missed the past five games with a hamstring injury, and he may not return until the postseason as well.
L.A. must win two of its final four games -- vs. Sacramento, vs. Denver and at Portland after this one -- to set the franchise record for wins (56 last year). The bigger carrot would be possibly stealing away the No. 2 seed from the Thunder. That would mean home-court advantage in a potential conference semifinals against OKC if chalk holds in the West's opening round. The first tiebreaker between those two if they finish with the same record would be head-to-head, which the Clips will hold with a victory Wednesday.
The Clippers lead 2-1 and the winning team has scored at least 105 points in all three. The first two meetings, including the lone one in Los Angeles, were back in mid-November. The most recent one was Feb. 23 in Oklahoma City and the Clippers won 125-117. Crawford led the Clippers with 36 points and Los Angeles had 34 fast-break points (compared to 17 for OKC), shooting 13 of 14 on the break. Redick didn't play in that one. Durant had 42 points and 10 rebounds. It was the first time he had a 40-point, 10-rebound game in his career and the only other Thunder/Sonics player to ever do it was Gary Payton twice. Westbrook was held to 13 on 3-for-13 shooting. Back the Clippes for your free NBA picks.
NBA Free Picks: Clippers -3.5 and the over 213 points on NBA odds. Oklahoma City is 1-4 ATS in its past five against teams with a winning record and past five in the second of a back-to-back. The Clippers have covered five of their past six against teams with a winning record. The over is 5-1 in the past six meetings.