Los Angeles Clippers (8-2) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (8-3)
The Clippers and Thunder figure to be a big part of the Western Conference race this year. So an early season battle between these two young squads figures to be a preview of a deep Western Conference battle. It has all the makings of that kind of a clash.
The Oklahoman and many Thunder fans seem to believe the Clippers have the right formula to take down the Thunder. Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge are good matchups for Kendrick Perkins (a fellow offensively challenged defensive-minded center like Aldridge) and Serge Ibaka (an uber athlete like Griffin). Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul offer a matchup of two top point guards.
The only player the Clippers may not have an answer for is Kevin Durant. Then again, no one may have an answer for him.
This Oklahoma City-L.A. Clippers matchup features two of the league's younger, more exciting teams and that alone is worth the price of admission and worth tuning in for. Both squads have seen deep Playoff runs and know what it takes to win in May and June. This is not the time for a May and June victory.
But one thing we know for sure is that the stars will have to show up and play well to get this victory. That particularly may be for Kevin Durant who will have to put aside his playmaking side and put on his finishing hat and take over the game. If he can do that, Oklahoma City can keep its perch.
It will not be easy. No team may be playing as well as the Clippers at the moment and they will want to make the statement win.
Other Storylines to Watch
-The point guard battle between Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook should be a doozy. Paul is averaging 16.3 points per game and 10.0 assists per game while shooting 48.7 percent from the floor. Westbrook is posting 20.5 points per game and 8.4 assists per game on 40.5 percent. Paul may need to step up his game to match both Westbrook and Durant's production tonight.
-Both Jamal Crawford and Kevin Martin are showing no signs of slowing down coming off the bench. Crawford leads the Clippers with 19.7 points per game while Martin is scoring 17.6 points per game while shooting 53.6 percent from the floor off Oklahoma City's bench.
Tonight's Other Games
Toronto Raptors (3-8) vs. Charlotte Bobcats (5-4)
The Bobcats continue to defy the odds and stay above .500 with a chance to get two, yes two, games above the .500 mark. Charlotte has not been that many games above .500 since April 2010 when the franchise wrapped up a 44-38 season and made its only Playoff appearance.
Detroit Pistons (2-9) vs. Orlando Magic (3-7)
The Pistons have gotten some great play from rookie Andre Drummond of late, leaving plenty of people to wonder how they will get him more minutes. Drummond has been up and down like any rookie, but is averaging 6.5 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in 15.4 minutes per game off the bench.
Philadelphia 76ers (7-4) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (2-8)
Andrew Bynum is still not back and he is not going to back for some time. After the latest setback, it appears that he might miss the entire year. Thati s very not good for a franchise that put a lot of faith in the young center's development… and health.
New Orleans Hornets (3-6) vs. Indiana Pacers (5-7)
That blockbuster, earth-shattering trade between the Hornets and Bobcats? You know the Hakim Warrick for Matt Carrol deal? Well, as expected, the Hornets have bought out Matt Carroll. Anthony Davis remains out with a stress reaction in his left ankle.
San Antonio Spurs (8-3) vs. Boston Celtics (6-5)
The Spurs and the Celtics are in the running to sign Mickael Pietrus. The Spurs shot down rumors that they were close to signing the veteran swingman. But it seems like the impediment for Pietrus to signing with anyone is his demand that he get more than the minimum.
Washington Wizards (0-9) vs. Atlanta Hawks (5-4)
The Wizards mixed up their lineup to try and break out of their nine-game skid to open the season. What might really fix the problem is getting John Wall and Nene back into the lineup. Unfortunately there is not any indication of when they might return.
Milwaukee Bucks (6-3) vs. Miami Heat (8-3)
The Bucks are playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulder, leading to their surprisingly hot start. Many believed that the Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis backcourt would not work. But the two are thriving. And now comes a big challege against the Heat.
Chicago Bulls (5-5) vs. Houston Rockets (4-7)
Jeremy Lin is not quite the story he was last year. And he is still cleaning up some of the remnants of his departure. But Lin is trying to move on and improve hisp lay. So far this season Lin has not lived up to his billing, averaging only 10.5 points per game on 34.2 percent shooting.
Denver Nuggets (5-6) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-4)
In the surprise of the evening, Kevin Love has been cleared to play and will start for the Timberwolves. Love broke his hand doing knuckle push ups. He missed the beginning of the season because of that, but recovered much quicker than previously expected.
New York Knicks (8-1) vs. Dallas Mavericks (6-6)
The question for the Knicks is whether this hot start and strong play can continue when Amar'e Stoudemire comes back. That might be way into the future, but it is something Mike Woodson and the Knicks are thinking about as Stoudemire gets closer to returning.
Portland Trail Blazers (5-5) vs. Phoenix Suns (4-7)
Marcin Gortat has been the center of speculation lately. He told a Polish reporter that he was unhappy with his role and returning to the role of grinder and "dirty-work" player. Gortat will duck his head and keep playing for the Suns. But he may be looking for an exit and Phoneix may be willing to oblige with several teams reportedly interested.
Los Angeles Lakers (6-5) vs. Sacramento Kings (2-8)
Remember at the beginning of the season when Kobe Bryant was supposed to be nursing that ankle injury? Yeah, everyone seems to forget about that particularly considering how well he has played. Bryant though is still feeling its effects and he said he still wakes up with his ankle throbbing.
Brooklyn Nets (6-3) vs. Golden State Warriors (6-5)
Reggie Evans became the NBA's first player to get fined for flopping. Metta World Peace called out the Nets for flopping yesterday. So clearly he had a point.