Extra Pass: SGA, Thunder take on Clippers

Published March 21, 2023, 7:00 PMMiguel Flores

The Thunder continue their playoff push as they head to Los Angeles for back-to-back games against the Clippers.

What’s up with the Thunder?

OKC went from a team people wrote off early in the season, to ahead of schedule, to now looking like an actual threat in the postseason.

The Thunder have won seven of their last nine matches, shooting all the way up to eighth in the Western Conference standings and just one game behind the Golden State Warriors for the sixth seed. If the Thunder somehow secure that postseason seat, that will show just how bright OKC's future is.

They’re led by All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is currently fourth in the league in scoring, averaging 31.4 points per game. Around this time for the past two years, SGA was either sitting out due to an injury or was just deactivated outright by OKC. All the skepticism about him being able to be the best player on a successful team should now be put to rest.

SGA just did it through sheer will and craftiness. He has thrived in the murky midrange and in the paint. When people talk about players having bags, SGA has a whole balikbayan box.

Alongside Maple Jordan, OKC has an eclectic young group, who they drafted with their boatloads of picks over the years. There’s the Australian playmaker Josh Giddey, who has taken several steps forward with his shot-making. Lu Dort is still a menace on defense and a streaky scorer. Rookie Jalen Williams has exceeded people's expectations of him from draft night.

The only thing OKC is missing is a big man. The great news is they don’t really need to go looking for one in the offseason as they have 2022 2nd overall pick Chet Holmgren, who should be back next season from his foot injury.

What’s up with the Clippers?

Like the Thunder, the Los Angeles Clippers are probably the team no higher seed wants to see in the playoffs. They’re healthy now and have been getting some much needed reps under their belt. With a 38-34 record, just one game behind Phoenix for the fourth seed, the Clippers should not be slept on.

This is finally looking like the year we get a healthy Kawhi Leonard and Paul George for the playoffs. Since the two linked up in the 2019 offseason, they have not played a whole playoff campaign healthy. Now, they have a chance to show why they were the popular pick to win the championship in the offseason.

It looked shaky at the start, but Kawhi has gotten his season together. He’s on pace to finish the season with around 50 games under his belt, which is about the number of games he’s played per season since he was a Toronto Raptor. He’s upped his scoring to 23.8 points per game on 51.3 percent shooting, a near miracle considering how rusty he looked at the start of the season. George is having an underrated season, averaging 23.9 points on 45/37/87 shooting splits.

What’s going to get the Clippers over is their supporting cast. They are a legit 10-deep squad that can match playstyles with any team in the West. They’re an older group overall, who probably has another gear to reach once the playoffs begin.

Where to watch?

It’s interesting to see where these two teams are now four years removed from the 2019 offseason. Paul George was traded to the Clippers for SGA and a haul of draft picks. Russell Westbrook was going from OKC to Houston, the first of the four teams he’d end up playing on.

These two are now some of the more fun teams to watch in the league. Catch them live on NBA League Pass at 10:30 AM.