On their best run since the All-Star break, the Los Angeles Clippers can afford to take some well-deserved time off.
And that's precisely what Doc Rivers plans to do with several starters in Thursday night's matchup with an Oklahoma City Thunder team expected to be back at full strength.
Rivers said following Wednesday's 99-79 rout at Minnesota - the Clippers' fourth straight win - that Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick will be rested when the team plays its fourth game in five days on Thursday. The trio received some additional down time by each sitting out the fourth quarter against the Timberwolves with Los Angeles up 79-53 after three.
''It's been a tough season for all of us not knowing who is going to play on a nightly basis,'' said Paul, who nearly notched a triple-double with 20 points, 16 assists and eight rebounds in 31 minutes. ''Finding our rhythm now and sitting these fourth quarters has been great.''
Trailing the Thunder by 4 1-2 games for third in the West with eight remaining and comfortably ahead of fifth-place Memphis, Los Angeles (47-27) is turning its attention to the playoffs and Blake Griffin's impending return. The star forward, sidelined since Christmas, will be eligible for Sunday's game against Washington after completing a four-game suspension for punching the team's assistant equipment manager in January.
Oklahoma City (52-33) took a similar approach in its last outing, sitting Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka Tuesday in Detroit. Their absences were felt as the Thunder recorded their lowest point total of the season in an 88-82 loss that halted a season-high eight-game winning streak.
The short-handed Thunder shot 37.8 percent and committed 19 turnovers in a sharp dropoff from their recent offensive displays. Oklahoma City shot 51.1 percent and averaged 117.3 points during the streak.
"We had terrible shot selection, and we kept turning over the ball," guard Randy Foye said. "You can't shoot yourself in the foot all night and expect to beat an NBA team.''
The Clippers figure to face a decline on defense without Paul and Jordan. They've been sensational on that end during their unbeaten run, limiting opponents to 88.3 points per game and 37.1 percent shooting. They held Minnesota to a season-low 34.5 percent.
"We're hitting our stride at the right time," guard Jamal Crawford said. "We hit a bump in the road a week and a half or so ago, it was an adjustment period, and now we're figuring things out again."
The Clippers couldn't slow down the high-powered Thunder in their last visit to Chesapeake Energy Arena, with Oklahoma City shooting 52.7 percent in a 120-108 win on March 9. Durant had 30 points and 12 rebounds and Russell Westbrook registered one of his league-high 16 triple-doubles with 25 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high 19 assists.
Oklahoma City also owned a 52-29 rebounding advantage and will likely have a decided edge again. The Thunder's plus-11.3 rebounding margin since March 2 is the NBA's best, while Los Angeles ranks 29th over that span at minus-9.5.
Durant, averaging 31.4 points over his last 11 matchups with the Clippers, also scored 30 points in a 103-98 win in Los Angeles on March 2. Paul had 32 in a 100-99 home victory in the teams' first meeting this season on Dec. 21.