You have to figure after Sunday’s miracle win by the Clippers that the Oklahoma City Thunder had one owed to them. And they got it.
The Clippers blew a seven-point lead Tuesday night with less than 50 seconds to play and find themselves on the edge of elimination after losing Game 5, 105-104, at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series.
The Thunder lead this best-of-seven series, 3-2, making Thursday night’s Game 6 at Staples Center a close-out game. If there is a Game 7 it will be Sunday back in Oklahoma City.
In the NBA, if a series is tied at 2-2, the winner of Game 5, has won the series 83% of the time.
The Clippers had a seven-point lead with 49.2 seconds to play and then started to meltdown as Kevin Durant got hot and made a three and a two and suddenly it’s a two-point game. Chris Paul lost the ball on the next possession and the Thunder had the ball with 11.2 seconds to tie or win the game.
What’s the worse thing that could happen? How about Paul being called for a foul beyond the three-point line. Russell Westbrook made all three and it was Clippers ball with 6.2 seconds down by one.
Paul drove the basket as time was running out but lost control of the ball. Game over.
Westbrook was at times unstoppable scoring 38 points, including 23 in the second half.
But, he sort of had to have that kind of night with Durant struggling mightily until his last two shots. Durant was 6 for 22 from the field but made up for it with his foul shooting, where he was 12 for 12. He finished with 27 points.
The Clippers got strong performances from Blake Griffin, who had 24 points on 10-for-20 shooting. And Jamal Crawford was very key coming off the bench to score 19 points.
Even J.J. Redick (16 points) and Matt Barnes (16), who had been invisible at times in this series, stepped up their game to give the Clippers a good chance. And you always have to mention Paul with 17 points and 14 assists. It didn’t take long for the Thunder to evaporate the six-point Clipper lead entering the final period as Westbrook continued to dominate every time he touched the ball.
The Clippers were able to pump the lead back to six, 94-88, on baskets by Crawford and Paul. It became a 6-0 run on another Crawford basket, 8-0 on a Barnes bucket and 11-0 on a Crawford three. The Clippers had a 101-88 lead with 4:10 to play. Lots of time in the NBA.
Westbrook and Durant followed with baskets, to make it an eight-point game with 3:19 left. A couple of misses later and Durant made a couple free throws to make it 101-95 with 2:31 left.
DeAndre Jordan, who was ineffective most of the night, fouled out with 2:22 to play. Reggie Jackson made it a four-point game with 1:25 to play.
Serge Ibaka fouled Griffin on the next possession. Griffin made the first foul shot but missed the second and, no, you didn’t guess this one, Glen (Big Baby) Davis came up with the rebound.
The Clippers reset and Paul made a basket with 49.2 seconds to play to give the Clippers a seven-point lead.
A lead that was gone in an instant.
Clippers 86, Thunder 80 (end of third quarter)
OK, everyone remembers Sunday's 16-point rally by the Clippers at home. Well, the Thunder only have to make up six as they trail the Clippers, 86-80, after three quarters at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.
But, as evidenced by Sunday’s Game 4, there are some advantages to being at home. Here’s what the Clippers need to stay on top.
--Blake Griffin, who has 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting, needs to stay hot.
--The Clippers need to find a way to get J.J. Redick open, who is having a good night with 16 points.
--Jamal Crawford, who was shooting 2 for 8 before making a four-point play, needs to make some more shots.
--And Chris Paul, with 11 points and 13 assists, need to be Chris Paul.
Russell Westbrook was virtually unstoppable in the third quarter for the Thunder, scoring 14 points to go with the 15 he scored in the first half. Kevin Durant continued to struggle, perhaps a big reason the Clippers were in front, making only 3 of 17 shots but he was 10 for 10 at the foul line.
If fouls and free-throw shooting become a factor in the fourth quarter it wasn’t a good sign that both Paul and Matt Barnes picked up their third fouls within the first minute of the quarter.
In the early part of the third quarter, the teams pretty much traded baskets with no real momentum from either team.
DeAndre Jordan picked up his fifth foul with 4:56 to play meaning the Clippers needed some quality minutes from Glen (Big Baby) Davis. What did David do, finished the quarter with five fouls.
The Thunder closed it to two, 70-68, with 4:38 to play on a Westbrook basket. And, with 3:04 to play, Westbrook converted a three-point play to close the margin to one, 74-73.
But the Clippers got bailed out down the stretch when Crawford made a four-point play (a three plus the foul) and a three-point play (two plus the foul).
Clippers 58, Thunder 52 (Halftime)
If we know anything in this series it’s that no lead—no matter how big or small—is safe.
But still, you would rather be on the front end of a small lead than the back end. The Clippers took a six-point lead, 58-52, into halftime Tuesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.
The Thunder is actually lucky to be so close considering they have only been shooting 38% with MVP Kevin Durant a miserable 2 of 9. But at the free-throw line they have been strong, making 22 of 25 shots.
Blake Griffin was the Clippers' leading scorer with 15 points and a revitalized J.J. Redick had 13, including 3 of 4 from three-point range. Chris Paul had 9 points with 7 assists.
Russell Westbrook led the Thunder 15 with Durant getting 13.
As well as the first quarter started for the Clippers, it went just as poorly in the second. With Paul on the bench the Clippers had poor ball movement and the Thunder took advantage.
With 10:30 to play DeAndre Jordan picked up his third foul and the Clippers aren’t real strong with big men coming off the bench. Foul trouble could play a part in deciding this game. In addition to Jordan, Griffin has three as does Serge Ibaka for the Thunder.
The Thunder rolled off a 12-3 run to close it to one, 38-37, with 8:32 to play on a Reggie Jackson three. Darren Collison turned it over on the next possession and the Thunder had their first lead, 39-38, since it was 2-0.
The Clippers went back up on a Danny Granger three. Actually, at that point Granger had scored all seven Clippers points in the quarter.
Granger’s three was the start of a 12-2 run by the Clippers with 4 points out of Paul, 3 from Jamal Crawford and 2 from Griffin. It gave the Clippers a nine-point lead, 50-41.
The Thunder closed the quarter strong with a 9-3 run before Redick made his third three at the buzzer.
Clippers 34, Thunder 25 (end of first quarter)
The Clippers had to be reasonably happy after the first quarter of Tuesday’s Game 5 when they rolled up a 34-25 lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.
The best-of-seven series is tied, 2-2.
Once again Blake Griffin was a dominant force scoring 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting. Was it leftover energy from Game 4’s come-from-behind victory? Or maybe the Thunder just wasn’t playing that well?
A telling stat: Kevin Durant only has 6 points on 1-of-4 shooting. Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 8 points.
You could tell things might be going the Clippers' way early in the first quarter. First of all they haven’t had the miserable shooting night that afflicted them in Game 4.
J.J. Redick, who has played poorly the last two games, started by making the first and second shots (this one for three) in the midst of a 9-0 Clipper run that gave them a 9-2 lead. Redick finished the period with 10 points including two three pointers.
And Griffin made his first three shots, always a good sign.
Then there is Matt Barnes, who was 0 for 6 in Game 4, made two-of-three three pointers and finished the quarter with 8 points.
In fact, the Clippers shot 50% in the opening quarter, double the 25% they shot in Game 4.
After the Clippers jumped to that 9-2 lead, the Thunder battled back to three, 11-8. But that’s when the Clippers went on a 12-4 run. The keys to that run: Griffin with 7 points, Barnes for 3 and Paul got 2.
Things got a little chippy with 5:04 to play when Russell Westbrook was assessed a flagrant foul for taking down Griffin on a layup. Griffin made the shot and the free throw for a three-point play.
The Clippers did start to unravel late in the period as the Thunder went on a 10-4 run to close the period, including a flagrant foul by Darren Collison with 2 seconds to play.
As for another negative, DeAndre Jordan picked up two quick fouls and Paul got his second foul late in the period.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled sports programming.
After the thrill of the Clippers incredible fourth-quarter rally Sunday was replaced by Donald Sterling’s attacks on Magic Johnson on Monday and followed on Tuesday just before game time with more Magic and Donald, it’s now time for some basketball.
About ninety minutes after the next segment of the Sterling saga airs on CNN tonight, Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinal gets under at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. The Clippers and Thunder are tied 2-2 in the best-of-seven series.
In a tie series, Game 5 is always considered the most crucial, that is until Games 6 and 7 are played. In the NBA, the team that wins Game 5 has won 83% of the series. Part of the that, of course, is because the team that hosts Game 5 also gets to host the winner-take-all Game 7.
The Clippers have tried to stay away from the distraction that Sterling has created but as Blake Griffin told The Times' Broderick Turner “it’s kind of hard not to.”
The Clippers were successful in the fourth quarter when they went to a smaller lineup that included Darren Collison, whose 12 points in the final frame allowed them to erase a 16-point deficit.
Another tactic the Clippers used was having Chris Paul cover league MVP Kevin Durant. However, that strategy can only be a short-term one as Paul would be in too much danger of fouling out if he covered Durant for an entire game.
So, here it is, Game 5, in a few hours one team will be facing an elimination game on Thursday at Staples Center.
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