Why Kevin Martin Will Be the Difference-Maker vs. the Los Angeles Clippers

Austin ChristensenContributor IIJanuary 22, 2013

Jan 11, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Kevin Martin (23) is defended by Los Angeles Lakers guard Jodie Meeks (20) at the Staples Center. The Thunder defeated the Lakers 116-101. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

High atop the Western conference standings sit the Oklahoma City Thunder who are currently half a game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers. Tonight's battle between the West's top two teams promises to be just as entertaining as the 117-111 overtime shootout that the Thunder won earlier this year.  

Western Carolina alum, Kevin Martin, looks poised to play in the spotlight tonight.  Martin, who's built himself quite the reputation as a sharpshooter, is going up against a sub-par three point defense tonight against the Clippers and will end up making the big shots the Thunder need to win this game.

When these two teams met earlier this season, the Thunder was accompanied by rain from beyond the arc, as they shot 48 percent from downtown.  Martin shot 60 percent from three, and contributed 20 points as the Thunder defeated "Lob City".  You can expect the same from him tonight as the Clippers' defensive attention will be focused on shutting down superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.  This should create plenty of opportunities from outside for the sharpshooting Thunder, and especially their leading three point threat, Kevin Martin.  

The Clippers are going to be spread very thin on defense as they try to defend the fast-paced, sharpshooting Thunder offense.  The Thunder's ability to make the defense collapse and kick the ball out to the gangly Martin will be essential for an Oklahoma City victory tonight.  

The Clippers' best chance at containing Kevin Martin tonight would be to be a bigger defender on him, and give him very little airspace.  Caron Butler is the same height as Martin and roughly 40 pounds heavier. If they don't give Martin the space to shoot, and he will have difficulty creating his own shot against a bigger defender. 

Martin, a career 38 percent shooter from long-distance, is having a career year, shooting 43 percent.  The Clippers' opponents are shooting a smoking 39.3 percent against L.A.'s new favorite team in the last three games, as well.  

All things considered, it certainly seems like Martin, the Western conference's fourth-best three point shooter, is destined to have a big game tonight in Los Angeles.