Here are five takeaways from the Clippers’ stunning 101-99 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals on Sunday at Staples Center:
1. It’s a whole new series. Not even the Clippers wanted to think about their chances of coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the series, considering they would have to win three consecutive games, including two in Oklahoma City. Now that their stirring comeback has tied the series at two games apiece, they can shoot for a split of games on the road and a victory at home in Game 6. The possibility of reaching the conference finals for the first time in franchise history just saw a massive uptick.
2. The Clippers took a page from the USC playbook when it came to guarding Kevin Durant. Yes, you read that right. The Thunder star hasn’t looked that frustrated -- with Chris Paul hounding him in the fourth quarter -- since USC’s Daniel Hackett continually flustered him during the Trojans’ upset of Texas in the second round of the 2007 NCAA tournament. There’s something about putting a get-under-your-skin defender on Durant that brings out the worst in him, no matter the defender’s height.
3. Darren Collison won the battle of former Bruins. In keeping with the college theme, Collison upstaged former UCLA teammate Russell Westbrook in the fourth quarter, making back-to-back layups to give the Clippers a 101-97 lead. Westbrook responded by blowing past Collison for a layup, but he missed a potential game-winning three-pointer. Collison scored 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter to complete the Clippers’ rally from a late 16-point deficit.
4. Magic Johnson was being Magic Johnson. The Lakers legend and minority Dodgers owner said he wouldn’t attend another Clippers game until Donald Sterling was no longer involved with the team. But he showed up for Game 4 despite the fact that Shelly Sterling remained committed to keeping the team at a time when she has been accused of holding many of the same sentiments as her husband when it comes to racial sensibilities. What’s the difference? Johnson sat next to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, continually mugging for photos with fans, and left before the end of the game, high-fiving people on the way out and making himself the story when the focus should have been on the Clippers.
5. Here’s betting whoever wins Game 5 wins the series. If the Thunder wins Game 5, the pressure reverts to the Clippers, who have played well in only one of the series’ first four games. If the Clippers win Game 5, they have to like their chances in a closeout Game 6 at home with considerable momentum. And if they can’t finish off the Thunder then, they can draw from having won the series opener in Oklahoma City upon a return to Chesapeake Energy Arena for Game 7.