LOS ANGELES — With San Antonio point guard Tony Parker sidelined for approximately four weeks after suffering a sprained left ankle Friday night, the Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers will waste no time maneuvering themselves for a potentially available No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
In the loss column, the Spurs (46-14) own a two-game lead over OKC (42-16) and a four-game advantage over the Clippers (43-18).
Currently the No. 2 and No. 3 playoff seeds in the West, the Thunder and Clippers meet at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Staples Center in a nationally televised game on ABC.
Although Parker potentially could miss four weeks, San Antonio holds a significant scheduling advantage with 15 of its 22 remaining games at home. OKC plays 11 of its final 24 games at home. The Clippers play 12 of their remaining 21 games at home.
Sunday will be the final regular-season meeting between the Thunder and Clippers. OKC won the two previous games — 117-111 in overtime at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Nov. 21, and 109-97 at Staples Center on Jan. 22.
Clippers All-Star point guard Chris Paul played in the first meeting against OKC, but shot just 2 for 14 from the field, which included missing a 14-footer at the end of regulation.
Normally a double-double machine, Paul finished with nine points, nine assists, five rebounds, four steals and four turnovers — one of his worst statistical lines in his eight seasons as a pro.
Paul missed the second game against the Thunder with a bruised knee.
Despite having a 2-0 advantage this season, OKC is just 8-9 all-time against the Clippers.
However, the spectacular plays for which the Clips have become known seem to rarely make an appearance against the Thunder.
Oh, there certainly have been moments. Blake Griffin's ferocious throwdown on top of OKC center Kendrick Perkins was widely considered the NBA's top dunk last season. The sequence immediately overloaded and shut down Twitter and has since been viewed more than 5 million times on YouTube.
However, the Clippers' renowned “Lob City” has seemed more like a ghost town against the Thunder, which has allowed very few alley-oops.
“We try to prevent their strengths,” OKC coach Scott Brooks said. “We don't want to give them layups or lobs. A lot of teams in the league go into the game trying prevent that, and we've done a good job. They're one of the most athletic teams in the league, and we have to do it again.”
Everyone in a Thunder uniform agrees the highest priority is preventing the Clippers from getting easy transition points, where Paul and Griffin frequently strut their stuff.
“Getting good shots on our end and not having too many turnovers that allow them to get out and run,” OKC veteran reserve forward Nick Collison said when asked to list several keys to the game. “Try to get them in a half-court set; try to have everybody be in tune with what's going on; have our help be there early, because if you're late, they'll just take off; try to plug up all the holes.”
Perhaps the best way to categorize the Thunder's level of confidence against the Clippers is as “cautiously optimistic.”
“A lot of it has to do with us doing a good job getting back and eliminating easy transition points,” Brooks said. “It sounds so simple, but it's hard to do against that team. They've got so many guys who fly down the court. They've got 3-point shooters and they've got Chris Paul playing the way he's playing.”
Thunder at Clippers
When: 2:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles
TV: KOCO-5 (Cox 8/HD 705, DirecTV 5, Dish 5, U-Verse 5/HD 1005)
Radio: WWLS-FM 98.1, WWLS-AM 640
Three things to know
* This will be the third and final meeting between the teams. OKC leads the series 2-0 this season.
* Clippers have won four straight, eight of their last nine and lead the Pacific Division by nine games.
* When the Clippers beat the Cavaliers 105-89 on Friday, it was their first win in Cleveland since 2002.