Who gets the blame for Thunder’s Game 4 loss to Clippers?
Tuesday, during his MVP acceptance speech, Kevin Durant thanked each and every teammate.
Durant also credited Thunder coach Scott Brooks, saying Brooks should get all of the credit, but never wants any of it.
But how bout blame?
All sorts of issues in all sorts of situations came together as the Thunder lost a 16-point, fourth-quarter lead, melting away in a combination of ugly the Thunder rarely show as the Clippers rallied for a 101-99, Game 4 win.
Darren Collison went YOLO, Serge Ibaka went absent as did the Thunder defense which had been so good for three quarters. Kevin Durant turned the ball over, too, but the biggest question came in the last 30 seconds when the Thunder were out of timeouts and Brooks didn’t call for his team to foul.
Brooks and the Thunder nearly got bailed out when Blake Griffin unexplainably shot and missed, but Russell Westbrook’s last-second, 3-pointer was off.
Hard to imagine what Brooks was thinking. Hard to imagine the strategy worked once before, too, when Westbrook stripped Mike Conley and drove for a tying layup in the first round of the playoffs when Brooks didn’t call for his team to foul in the final seconds.
It didn’t work Sunday and now with the series tied at 2-2, the Thunder not only kicked away a chance to close out the series, but have to figure out how to deal with a crushing, crippling loss when from the opening tip OKC controlled the game.
Durant was good enough, he scored 40 points. Westbrook was good, too. He scored 27. The defense was more than capable, holding the Clippers to 63 points through three quarters.
But Durant came undone, turning it over eight times for the game, including a horrible pass when he was double-teamed with 3 minutes to go, which led to a Collison layup. The defense did, too. The Clippers went on a stretch where they scored on 18-of-19, fourth-quarter possessions. And Westbrook was brilliant and baffling. He was two-of-seven the last 5:07.
"That’s the ups and downs of a playoff game," Brooks said. "We’re 2-2. We’re not focused on Game 6 or 7. We’re focused on Game 5. We’re going to figure out how we can get better and make some adjustments. All of our attention is on Game 5."
One of the adjustments certainly has to be the fourth quarter where the Thunder allowed 38 points, but another has to be thinking from Brooks.
All Los Angeles had to do was dribble, and it looked like Brooks and the Thunder players were content to let them do just that, but Griffin went to the basket and missed giving the Thunder the ball with 7 seconds left.
The mistake from Griffin doesn’t make up for the mistake Brooks made first. Foul and you give your team a chance to not only win it in regulation with a pair of misses, but lengthen the game, at the very least.
Neither happened, and the result only magnifies the Thunder’s inability to execute offensively in the fourth quarter as well shine a harsh light on its defensive indifference, too.
"We could have done a better job of getting to our spots in the fourth quarter," Brooks said. "Give them credit. They stepped up when they were down. The bigger problem is the defense. 38 points."
The Clippers were at their near-best Friday night, getting a huge performance from Griffin, but the Thunder were the better team. In Game 2, the Thunder got quality showings from Durant and Westbrook and the bench. That formula was good enough to work for a win.
Sunday the Thunder were at their near-best for all of three quarters.
They were at their most-puzzling in the last 30 seconds.
What should have happened in Game 4? Tell me on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK