LOS ANGELES — Matt Barnes was getting torched. Danny Granger never had a shot. Blake Griffin couldn’t stay in front of him.
Through the first 15-plus quarters of this series, the Clippers, predictably, didn’t have an answer for Kevin Durant and his MVP antics.
So with nothing else to lose, Doc Rivers dialed up the pesky Chris Paul as a last-ditch effort to try and contain the world’s best scorer. It was a “desperate” move, as Rivers called it, sticking a 6-foot-nothing point guard on a 6-foot-11 sharpshooter.
But it’s a decision that, for now, has turned this series from virtually over to a virtual toss-up, serving as a key factor in the Clippers’ wild comeback and 101-99 win over the Thunder on Sunday afternoon. Series suddenly tied 2-2.
Early in the fourth quarter, Paul took over the unenviable assignment. L.A. was down 16 and in desperate need of a spark. Paul’s bulldog mentality and Rivers’ change of scheme gave it to them.
With Durant towering over Paul, OKC coach Scott Brooks and the Thunder continually tried to exploit the height mismatch in the mid-post. They sent him down to that right elbow, in the same spot where Durant had hit a dagger fadeaway over Paul two nights before.
But this time, Paul played him with a bit more of a frantic, disruptive style. And as he did so, Rivers dialed up a variety of double-teams from different angles. Durant struggled to adjust to the new defender and swarming scheme. He turned it over three times in the fourth, including a crucial mistake with three minutes left, and the Thunder offense stalled.
“We trapped this time,” Rivers said. “We probably should have the last time. We worked on it and we didn’t do it. Tonight, whenever he got it, we sent an extra guy.”