Turnovers played a big part, as the Thunder gave it away five times in the fourth quarter and watched those miscues result in eight points. The Clippers also generated 12 fast break points in the period.
But the perils of the Thunder’s small lineup manifested itself mostly when its defense had no answer for the high screen and roll with Paul and Griffin.
When the Clippers scored on eight straight possessions midway through the final period, it was that play-call that trimmed a 16-point Thunder lead to seven and shifted momentum, for the first time Sunday afternoon, to the home team. Paul and Griffin produced 11 of those 15 points, with either Paul exploiting Ibaka’s hesitancy to help on drives or Griffin overpowering Durant on swtiches and scoring with ease in the paint or earning trips to the foul line.
“We found a set,” Rivers explained. “Over on the bench, we were sitting there looking at all my play calls and we finally stumbled on one. It’s one we’ve run a lot. But with the small lineup in, and with Blake being the only big, with his athleticism, you can’t switch it. If you switch it like they did you get punished. If you don’t switch it then C.P.’s going down the paint.”
There was plenty more you could point to in explaining the Thunder’s meltdown. But what the Clippers stumbled into when their coach resorted to desperation mode Sunday was an effective and efficient counter for what had become one of the Thunder’s biggest advantages.
And now it’s a best-of-3 series.