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Thunder-Clippers Game 4 Preview: Great displays of individualism

By Zach Harper | NBA writer

Will these two stars shine the brightest in this series? (USATSI)
Will these two stars shine the brightest in this series? (USATSI)

More postseason coverage: Playoff schedule, results | Latest news, notes

Previewing Game 4 of the Thunder-Clippers Western Conference semifinal series.

1. Where We Are: After one of the most impressive games of the 2014 NBA Playoffs, the Thunder lead the Clippers 2-1 after OKC's 118-112 win in Game 3. After a split in OKC, The stars shined bright in Game 3 as Chris Paul put up a ridiculous line of 23 points, 16 assists and zero turnovers. It's only the third time in 28 years someone has put up a 20-15-0 line with Magic Johnson being one and Paul being the other. Blake Griffin was huge for the Clippers, acting like a bully inside against Serge Ibaka. He had 34 points and made 8 of 9 free throws.

And yet the Thunder persevered by outscoring the Clippers 32-22 in the fourth quarter. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were unrea, buring big shot after big shot in the fourth and the Thunder regained control of the series. Westbrook had 23 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds to complement Durant's 36 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

2. The Big Numbers: 9.9 and 36 percent. There are two big reasons this series is as tight as can be after three games. The Clippers simply haven't turned the ball over much. They're controlling their own destiny by not wasting possessions. Their 9.9 percent turnover rate is stellar, especially when you consider the best in the NBA this season at turnover rate was the Charlotte Bobcats at 12.9 percent. The Clippers can thank CP3, who has only five miscues in 101 minutes.

The 36 is the Thunder's offensive rebounding percentage this series. The Detroit Pistons were the best in the NBA this season at crashing the offensive glass at 31.9 percent. OKC grabbing 36 percent of available offensive rebounds is absurd, led by Westbrook's 10 offensive boards in this series. He's leading the Thunder in offensive rebounding while Kendrick Perkins (six), Steven Adams (seven), and Serge Ibaka (four) have also been contributing. The Thunder are losing the turnover battle, but they're making up for it on the glass.

3. Key Adjustment: Box out. As we can see by OKC's offensive board percentage, the Clippers are getting killed on the boards, despite having two of the better rebounders in the NBA: DeAndre Jordan and Griffin. But this has to be a team effort. Instead of looking to leak out and grab cheap points, the Clippers have to play much more sound, especially on the glass. The guards have to keep a body on Westbrook when a shot goes up, and Jordan and Griffin can't just rely on athleticism to secure the board. The Clippers are going to have to be much more physical on the boards and put some strength into it. If they don't, they won't be able to end possessions, which has been a problem in the fourth quarter. The Thunder's offensive rebounding rate goes up to 38.7 percent in the fourth, and it's helped them keep control of this series after three games.

4. The Big Story: It's going to be hard to find a quartet of stars playing as well as these guys at the same time. We've seen plenty of star-studded teams in the past get great individual efforts from game to game, but rarely do we find two stars from each team shining like this. And for the most part, work by Griffin, Paul, Durant, and Westbrook has fallen within the team concept, as the players around them are complementing them beautifully. The tipping point of this series will be which guys didn't step up, but we should appreciate the stellar basketball execution we're seeing on display here.

5. The Facts: 3:30 p.m. ET. Hedo Turkoglu is out indefinitely (hairline fracture, back). The Thunder don't have any known significant injuries.

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