By Randy Renner
Just when we were thinking the Thunder had gotten over blowing big leads, turning to hero ball and turning their backs on golden opportunities...
Reality steps up and slaps us right smack in face.
Oklahoma City blew what was once a 22-point lead and lost in the closing seconds 101-99 to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center.
The Thunder led by 22 points early, 29-7 in a runaway first quarter. But that lead slipped away to almost nothing in the second quarter until the Thunder righted the ship and maintained an 8 to 12 point lead through three quarters.
The margin was a deceptively comfortable 16 points with about nine minutes left in the game. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were cruising along putting together big games, they weren't getting much help from the bench but everything else seemed to be working out.
But from then on the Clippers took advantage of Thunder miscues on defense and missed shots on offense to storm back to win the game and climb back into the series.
Durant finished with 40 points and Westbrook had 27, each of them had 10 in the fourth quarter but Serge Ibaka (two points) and Reggie Jackson (two points) were the only other Thunder players who scored in the fourth quarter. Ibaka took only one shot, Jackson took three and Caron Butler took one. Durant put up five hitting four and Russ shot the ball 10 times.
LA's backup point guard, Darren Collison, scored 10 of his 18 points in the final 2:58 of the game and Westbrook missed what would have been a game winning 3-pointer in the last second. Ibaka's tip in of the missed shot came just after the buzzer sounded.
That fourth quarter was where the Thunder, particularly on the defensive end of things, completely collapsed.
Through three quarters the Clippers were shooting just 35.2 percent overall and were a pathetic 2-for-19 (10.5 percent) on 3-pointers. L.A. was even having trouble at the free throw line going just 11-for-18 (61.1 percent).
At that point the Thunder led 75-63 and had held the Clips to two quarters where they didn't score 20 points (17 in the 3rd and 15 in the 1st).
But oh that final frame, that was pure Ugly with a capital U.
In the fourth quarter the Clippers scored 38 points, six more than in the first and third combined. They shot 63.6 percent overall (14-for-22). Collison was 4-for 6 in the quarter after going 3-for-6 the previous three. Chris Paul was 4-for-6, Jamal Crawford 3-for-4 and Blake Griffin 3-for-5.
Four Clippers took at least four shots and none of them hit less than three.
And most of their shots came down low, they scored 24 of their 38 fourth quarter points in the paint on 12-for-16 shooting (75 percent). Los Angeles had scored just 28 paint points in the first three quarters.
So whether the Thunder relaxed or ran out of gas or the Clippers simply realized their season was about to end, things turned around drastically in the final few minutes.
The bright side of course is that the Thunder still got the split in La-La Land which is what most fans would have taken at the beginning of the series.
Things are back to even, tied at 2-2. It's a three game series now and the Thunder have two of those three at home.
So before the rest of your Sunday night and your Monday morning is ruined just remember 2-2 is where a lot of folks figured this series would be after four games anyway.