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NBA Los Angeles ClippersOklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder Outlast Los Angeles Clippers In NBA Playoff Preview

Russell Westbrook Thunder

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If you live on the East Coast, chances are you did whatever it took to stay awake for this head-on collision between two Western Conference gems (with the book of calling-in-sick excuses ready to roll if the overtime gods were in a festive mood).

West Coast residents might mock the morning hangover, but the reality is Wednesday night’s tipoff between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers was circled on the calendars of both casual fans and the hardwood’s hardcore enthusiasts. With not a tanking franchise in sight, a playoff-type atmosphere was in the building.

The NBA West remains an unparalleled universe; it’s a world where the No. 9 seed Memphis Grizzlies, who are in danger of being ousted from the playoff-picture, would currently be in the mix for the No. 3 seed in the East.

Even the top-dogs can’t escape the drama, as the precursor to this power-struggle matchup had the conference’s  No. seed on the line with the Thunder residing a mere 1.5 games above the Clippers. With the regular season on its last leg, this race sets up to be a highly entertaining photo-finish.

Smart-money says not only was this a preview of who will inevitably receive the dubious distinction of opening on the road against the San Antonio Spurs in the Conference Finals, but it also came attached with the inescapable thought of the viewing pleasure presented by these two squads meeting in the second round.

The notion of the paint-war that would take place between Blake Griffin and Serge Ibaka over the course of a seven-game series is a tantalizing one — which has the potential to get so ugly you might even see Ron Artest make an appearance in the stands (and not in a good way).

Not to mention the idea of witnessing Russell Westbrook‘s flaw of his inability to completely buy-in to his second-fiddle role (on full display at the Staples Center), which always makes for featured entertainment. When Kevin Durant goes 8-for-26 from the field, do you think that was just an off-game? Time to call Westbrook in for questioning. A title is in Oklahoma City’s midst, but this potential downfall might never go corrected.

Rest assured that this clash of the titans will go down, folks; the basketball gods can’t be that selfish. As far as Wednesday’s high-stakes combat goes, the Thunder revealed chinks in their armor, blowing a 16-point fourth quarter lead. But on the big picture scale, the Clippers blew a chance at home-court advantage, the potential X-factor in round two (Jamal Crawford can’t come back soon enough).

Whether you’re relaxing at home after calling in sick or fighting through the morning headache, I think we can all agree it was worth it for Western Conference theater at its finest.

Mike Holian is a Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.