OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Thunder appeared ready to take a commanding 3-1 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Instead, Oklahoma City squandered a 16-point lead in the final 10 minutes of a 101-99 loss Sunday that evened the series at 2-2. They'll host Game 5 on Tuesday night in a game they must win to avoid being put on the brink of elimination.
"We've got to turn the page," Thunder forward Kevin Durant said Monday. "We gave it away. It's unfortunate, but we come back home 2-2, and we're looking forward to playing another game." If the Clippers win, they will host Game 6 on Thursday with a chance to close out the series. Los Angeles is proud of its Game 4 comeback, but the Clippers say this series has changed each game, so they aren't too excited about Sunday's late-game performance.
"At the end of the day, we're going to start that game (Game 5) off 0-0," guard Chris Paul said. "We're going into their place. I think we've got to bring that same energy and mindset — not the one we started off with — but just understanding that sometimes, you've just got to impose your will. Just play hard."
Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook have played outstanding basketball in the series, but the Thunder have lost when others haven't produced. In Sunday's game, Durant scored 40 points and Westbrook added 27, but no other Thunder player scored more than 10 points. It was a similar story in the Game 1 loss. Westbrook scored 29 points and Durant 25, but no one else scored more than 12.
Durant said he needs to keep the ball moving so his teammates can be in better position to be involved. "They can't do it on their own, I've got to help them," said Durant, the league MVP. "I've got to do a better job of catching the balls and passing the ball out of double teams better and being stronger with the ball. So it's not on them. They're just making themselves available. The ball has to get there on time. That's on me."
The Clippers had success with the 6-foot Paul guarding the 6-foot-9 Durant at times in the second half on Sunday. Though Durant made 7 of 10 field goals after the break, he also committed seven turnovers. Durant said Paul played him well, but he had a lot of help.
"Little guys get up under you, but they're not just going to play me one-on-one," Durant said. "Basically, they've got three guys watching me. They've got one behind me, so when I caught it, they double-teamed as soon as I caught it. And when they didn't double team, I scored. People always have something to say about the 1-on-1 matchup, which never happens in this league, especially with me."
Durant said the Clippers have resorted to other means, too — like hanging on his farm. "Every time I pass the ball, there's a guy on my arm," he said. "I'm 6-9. There's no way two six-footers are going to get the ball. You do the math."
The Clippers' small lineup in the fourth quarter helped them outscore the Thunder 38-24 in the fourth quarter Sunday. "That's the thing about our team — I think we're built for anything," guard Jamal Crawford said. "We can go big. We can go small. We can play a lot of different ways."
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he is confident that Durant and his teammates will make the right decisions in Game 5. "They did some double teams that we were out of position on looking back," Brooks said. "We have to be able to react quickly off of those double teams, and we will tomorrow night. I have confidence in what we will do when they do double team."
The Thunder also need to keep their focus on the game instead of the officials. Oklahoma City has 10 individual technical fouls in the series while the Clippers have five. Westbrook said the Thunder are frustrated with some of the Clippers' tactics.
"There's a lot of flopping going on, I can tell you that much," Westbrook said.