Only three teams sit above the resurgent Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference standings. One of those clubs is the Oklahoma City Thunder, who will visit the Clippers on Tuesday.
The Clippers faced the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday and came away with a 109-105 defeat in Minneapolis. It was just the second loss in the past 10 games for Los Angeles.
Kawhi Leonard scored 26 points against the Timberwolves and Norman Powell added 24 off the bench, but Paul George was held to 16 points on 5-of-19 shooting after he averaged 25.8 points over his previous 13 games. It was just the second time he was held under 20 points in his past 19 games.
Russell Westbrook scored 12 points and handed out 13 assists, but James Harden also was off his game with 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting. And still the Clippers had a chance against the top team in the West.
The Clippers played without center Ivica Zubac, who sat out due to right calf tightness. Zubac was a late scratch because of an injury that was not considered serious, although he subsequently was ruled out for the Tuesday game as well.
The Thunder enter off a 112-105 defeat against the host Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, so they will have a quick turnaround.
Oklahoma City earned a 134-115 home victory over the Clippers on Dec. 21. It was the start of a four-game stretch when Los Angeles was without Leonard because of a hip injury. The Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander amassed 31 points and eight rebounds against his former team.
In the Monday game against the Lakers, Gilgeous-Alexander scored 24 points and dished out six assists after he was a game-time decision due to a right knee sprain. Oklahoma City saw its four-game winning streak end.
Jalen Williams scored 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting for Oklahoma City, which shot just 37.5 percent from the floor in the first half but still managed a 50-50 tie at that stage. The Lakers led 84-76 after three quarters and opened a double-digit advantage in the fourth before holding off a late Thunder surge.
Oklahoma City took a season-high 49 attempts from 3-point range but made only 15 (30.6 percent). The Thunder’s overall 41.7 percent from the floor was the team’s third-lowest mark of the season.