By Randy Renner
We heard the R-word after Thunder practice on Monday. The hated R-word.
Relax, with a capital R.
I was kinda hoping that word wouldn't be used anymore to describe defensive lapses or offensive miscues, this is the playoffs afterall.
No place for relaxing. We're not talking Milwaukee on a Tuesday night in January here people.
But the Thunder became their own worst enemies on Sunday at Staples Center. They jumped out to a huge 22-point first quarter lead, 29-7 was the score at that point.
The Thunder did some relaxing in the second quarter and the Clips roared back to get within four before the Thunder deciding re;axing wouldn't be a good thing to do against a desperate team fighting for their playoff lives.
The margin was back up to a comfortable 16 points with about about nine minutes left in the game.
Too comfortable apparently.
"We did relax when we were up 16 points and we let em back in the game," admitted Kevin Durant, who scored a game-high 40 points fighting through double and triple teams all game long.
"It was a missed opportunity," said Thunder head coach Scott Brooks. And then here came the R-word again. "That fourth quarter, defensively, we really relaxed and they got a lot of buckets inside the paint (12 of them). We have to do a better job of locking in."
The Thunder had been 'locking in' for much of the game. Through three quarters the Clippers were only shooting 35.2 percent and were just 2-for-19 (10.5 percent) on threes.
As we've seen in several of the Thunder losses this season, this team doesn't play particularly well when things are going perhaps a little too good.
They get a little too comfortable and they tend to...here it comes again...RELAX.
"We relaxed," said Russell Westbrook. And Russ knows that shouldn't happen because bad things tend to follow. "You know when teams play relaxed," he said, "that's a team that gets beat."
See Russ knows. KD knows. Scott Brooks knows.
So how is it that it keeps happening?
"Your instinct is to relax, you're up 20," Westbrook explained. "Your instict is to relax and just chill and that's kinda what we did."
Too bad for the Thunder the Clippers didn't cooperate. They saw the change and instead of giving up the game they pounced on an open invitation.
By the time the Thunder had stopped chillin the Clips were so hot they couldn't do much about it. Especially with both Westbrook and Serge Ibaka trying to protect the paint with a 5-foul albatross hanging around their necks.
"It was tough (playing with five fouls) it takes away a lot of the stuff I like to do," Westbrook admitted. "Fight for rebounds and just do stuff to try and help my team win, it's not an excuse but it happens like that sometimes."
"That definitely is a little bit of it," Brooks agreed on the foul situation but he also insisted it's no excuse for what happened. "Everybody still has to get into the proper coverage and be engaged and lock in. We have to do a better job."
Durant believes his guys will, and though the fourth quarter foul ups were the hot topic of discussion on Monday KD was ready to move on down the road.
"We gotta turn the page because we gotta game (Tuesday) we can't keep talkin' about the last game. We gave it away, but we can't keep thinking about it. If we'd have won we couldn't keep thinking about how well we played cuz that's gonna take the focus off (Game 5) same way with a loss. We gotta get past it."
They've got to stop relaxing is what they've gotta do.