The Oklahoma City Thunder suffered the worst loss of their season at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers. The Thunder, poised to take a commanding 3-1 series lead, allowed the Clippers to stay in the game and pull out the win. This loss will prove costly to a Thunder team that could have improved their chances of advancing to the western conference finals with the win.
The Thunder were in control for most of the game. They led by 22 in the first quarter. They led by 16 with 9 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. But the Thunder trailed by 2 when the final buzzer sounded.
How could this happen? Why didn’t Kevin Durant exploit the obvious advantage he had while the much shorter Chris Paul was guarding him through most of the fourth quarter? How could the Thunder let a bench player in Darren Collison make huge plays down the stretch?
All these questions were answered in the fourth quarter of a grueling, physical, and possibly pivotal game. The opportunity that the Thunder blew can not be overstated. What could have possibly been a 5 games series for the Thunder will now go at least 6 games, and with these teams so evenly matched, probably 7.
The Thunder led the entire game, save for the final minutes when the Clippers went willed their way to a crucial win. Blake Griffin played with 5 fouls, Paul defended Durant well, and the Clippers bench stepped up. It felt like the Thunder let their foot off the gas peddle in the fourth quarter when they thought they had the win in sight.
Some advice for Durant and Co.: In the NBA playoffs, expect the unexpected, always.
Clippers coach, Doc Rivers, made bold decisions and they paid off while Thunder coach, Scott Brooks, played it vanilla. Perhaps the difference in the fourth, aside from some timely shot making and foul calls, was the coaching decisions made by Rivers.
Tomorrow night will be the most important game of the Thunder’s season. And while still having home-court advantage, they will still be favored to win the series. It’s very important that they win game 5 to keep the pressure off of themselves and squarely on the Clippers. This series is proving to be the most exciting and equally matched series of the second round, and I don’t expect game 5 to stray from that pattern.