The Clippers will face a streaking Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant's… (Sue Ogrocki / Associated…)
At first, Clippers Coach Doc Rivers offered up a cliche, saying the matchup Wednesday night at Staples Center between L.A. and the Oklahoma City Thunder was "just another game."
But in the same breath, Rivers talked about how good the Thunder is and the challenge Oklahoma City will present for his Clippers.
"When you play Miami or Oklahoma City or San Antonio they're special, fun games," Rivers said.
"And for me, everything is new as a coach. I have a new team. So they're all new experiences and you're trying to just get as much out of each game as you can. You learn stuff that you can do the next time with this group."
Last season, the Thunder swept the season series, 3-0, from the Clippers.
And Oklahoma City (5-1) is back to playing high-caliber basketball, with the second-best record in the Western Conference and third-best in the NBA.
"It's a good test," Blake Griffin said. "It's just like playing against the Heat. As far as I'm concerned, playing against Minnesota even, teams like that, they are playoff teams and they are teams you have to beat down the stretch to get to where you want to go."
The Thunder is also back to full health.
That means All-Star small forward Kevin Durant, who leads the NBA in scoring (30.2 points), has his sidekick back, All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook had surgery for a torn meniscus in his right knee in April and then had surgery on the same knee again in October because of swelling. But he returned earlier than expected and the Thunder has won all four games with Westbrook in the lineup. He is averaging 19 points per game.
"Obviously they have two of the better players in the league on the perimeter in Durant and Westbrook — they have good chemistry," Clippers guard Jamal Crawford said. "You can't put a label on chemistry and playing together. Those guys have been through the wars and every situation. We haven't gotten there yet. Eventually, hopefully, we'll get there."
Matt Barnes played 22 minutes against Minnesota on Monday night, after missing three games because of a bruised right thigh.
Barnes said he got acupuncture to help alleviate the pain so he could play. "I was able to finally bend my leg after four or five days," he said.
Before practice Tuesday, Barnes said his thigh was a bit sore but that he would play Wednesday.