Trailing 3-1 in a best-of-7 playoff series is no place to be, but it beats being eliminated. Barely.
The Oklahoma City Thunder faces a must-win situation against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday at 8 p.m. in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.
The Thunder played once inside American Airlines Center during the regular season and won, and also won Game 2 of the series there.
Making the challenge particularly daunting is the fact OKC just got swept at home against the Mavs in Games 3 and 4. The Thunder is fresh off a devastating 112-105 overtime loss on Monday night when it led by 15 points with less than five minutes remaining in regulation and was outscored 28-6 in the final 9:49 of play.
Had the Thunder hung on and won Game 4, it would have guaranteed Game 6 inside Oklahoma City Arena. OKC now must win Game 5 in order to play again in its home arena.
“We've got a shot to play and we have to look at it like that,” Thunder reserve forward Nick Collison said. “I don't think it's hard get up for the game. It may sound simple, but what else have we got to do? There's 26 other teams that aren't playing right now.”
Teams trailing 3-1 in an NBA playoff have lost the series 96 percent of the time, which for eternal optimists means the Thunder's glass is 4 percent full.
“Obviously, the odds are against us, but there's odds,” OKC coach Scott Brooks said after Tuesday's practice. “When you have odds, you still have a chance. I know our guys. They're going to look at it as a chance to extend it and come back home for Game 6. We have to play great basketball, we have to do a lot of things well, but it's still possible.”
Game 4 marked just the seventh time all season the Thunder failed to win after loss (26-7).
All-Star forward Kevin Durant, normally smiling and upbeat after setbacks, has been much more somber after the last two losses.
Asked how it feels to be one game away from elimination, Durant shook his head and said, “Terrible. Terrible. It's a bad feeling, but we've got faith. I've got faith. It was a tough pill to swallow (Monday) night at home. I didn't talk to nobody, my mom, my grandma. I usually have a good time with them. It was tough, but I've got faith. I'm just going to lay it all on the line.”
Durant said the key to overcoming a 3-1 deficit is “having faith that you can do it and believing. We've won in that building (AAC) before. Try to bring it back to the OKC. That's the plan. We'll see what happens. We've just to play as hard as we can, leave it all out there and go from there.”
A 23-59 team two seasons ago after it relocated from Seattle, the Thunder won this year's Northwest Division title with a 55-27 record to earn the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference.
OKC lost 4-2 in the first round of last year's playoffs against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. To reach this year's Western Conference Finals against the No. 3-seeded Mavericks, the Thunder defeated the Denver Nuggets 4-1 and the Memphis Grizzlies 4-3.
“We still have a chance,” Brooks said. “We can still make it a series. Our focus is winning one basketball game. It's going to be a tough environment, but what better way to win a game than when no one thinks you can win that game? You have to get inspiration from that. Beating the odds is always possible.”
RALLYING FROM A 3-1 DEFICIT
In NBA playoff history, 200 teams have faced a 3-games-to-1 series deficit. Only eight have rallied to win the series, and only two of those — the 1968 Celtics and the 1995 Rockets — did not have homecourt advantage:
1968 Celtics: Beat the 76ers in the East finals, winning Games 5 and 7 on the road. Boston, led by John Havlicek and old hands Bill Russell and Sam Jones, beat the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
1970 Lakers: Beat the Suns in the West semifinals, winning Game 6 on the road. The Lakers, led by Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor, lost to the Knicks in that famous NBA Finals.
1979 Bullets: Beat the Spurs in the East finals, winning Game 6 on the road. The Bullets, led by Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld, lost to the SuperSonics in the NBA Finals.
1981 Celtics: Beat the 76ers in the East finals, winning Game 6 on the road. Boston, led by Larry Bird and Nate Archibald, beat the Rockets in the NBA Finals.
1995 Rockets: Beat the Suns in the West semifinals, winning Games 5 and 7 on the road. Houston, led by Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, beat the Magic in the NBA Finals.
1997 Heat: Beat the Knickerbockers in the East semifinals, winning Game 6 on the road. Miami, led by Tim Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning, lost to the Bulls in the East Finals.
2003 Pistons: Beat the Magic in the East first round, winning Game 6 on the road. Detroit, led by Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups, lost to the Nets in the East Finals.
2006 Suns: Beat the Lakers in the West first round, winning Game 6 on the road. Phoenix, led by Steve Nash and Shawn Marion, lost to the Mavericks in the West Finals.
BY BERRY TRAMEL