Kevin Durant came close to covering up a night full of imperfections and one disconcerting old flaw that crept up and cost the Thunder yet again.
When he came up short, so did the Thunder, falling 100-98 to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The loss dropped the Thunder to 42-16, spoiling a golden opportunity OKC had to regain control of its own destiny in a tight race for home-court advantage in the wake of San Antonio getting spanked at home by the Lakers. Perhaps as significant, the defeat also invoked memories of the Thunder’s days of closing out games with incredible inefficiency on offense — something that no one is sure won’t rear its ugly head once more when the playoffs start after these final eight games.
Nothing conjured up those forgettable days down the stretch like seeing Durant settle for a potential game-winning 25-footer rather than forcing the action for a chance at tying the score with a much higher-percentage shot.
“He was playing off me a little bit and it got clogged up,” Durant said about his defender on the last sequence. “I didn’t want to risk a turnover so I shot it.”
It was the culmination of a second-half letdown that appeared to be the result of disorganized chaos and costly lapses. The Thunder mustered just nine points in the final seven minutes. Over the final 6½ minutes, OKC made just 2-of-7 shots and turned the ball over two times.
Durant nearly went down as the hero when he blocked a corner jumper by Clippers forward Kenyon Martin at one end just before hitting a game-tying 3 at the other over Blake Griffin from the top of the key with 32.2 seconds remaining.
Before that, the Thunder executed one solid play. It came 30 seconds earlier on a dribble drive and dish by Russell Westbrook to a cutting Serge Ibaka for an uncontested dunk.