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OKC Thunder: Doc Rivers' desperation moves lead to Clippers victory over Thunder

One adjustment kept Los Angeles from facing a virtually insurmountable 3-1 series deficit: Rivers went small.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: May 11, 2014


photo - From left, Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka (9), Reggie Jackson (15), Los Angeles' Chris Paul (3), Danny Granger (33) and Blake Griffin (32) react at the end of Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals in the NBA playoffs between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Sunday, May 11, 2014. The Clippers won 101-99. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
From left, Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka (9), Reggie Jackson (15), Los Angeles' Chris Paul (3), Danny Granger (33) and Blake Griffin (32) react at the end of Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals in the NBA playoffs between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Sunday, May 11, 2014. The Clippers won 101-99. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

L.A. scored 24 points in the paint in the final period. The Thunder had that many points total in the frame.

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.

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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