Kevin Durant sat on the Thunder blue hardwood, his eyes glassy and his head bowed.
Even as the Clippers celebrated on the court after the final buzzer, he didn't move. It took a couple teammates to come across the court and help the Thunder superstar to his feet.
This was an opportunity lost, and Durant knew it.
Clippers 100, Thunder 98.
On a night when the Thunder could've moved into the driver's seat in the race for the top spot in the Western Conference, it bungled away that chance. It not only lost a home game it should've won but also gave a gift to San Antonio.
The Spurs got trounced on home hardwood by the Lakers — and Kobe Bryant didn't even play. San Antonio went with all of its big guns, but even though Los Angeles was playing without Kobe, it took a lead late in the first quarter and never trailed again. The Lakers led by as many as 26 points.
It was a beatdown.
That loss could've marked a shift in the struggle for Western Conference supremacy and the fight for homecourt advantage throughout the first three rounds of the playoffs.
Instead, the Spurs remain the favorites to claim that top spot in the West. Even though they are a game behind the Thunder in the standings, they have played two fewer games. The Spurs also hold the tiebreaker, having won the season series against the Thunder.
So, the Thunder finds itself still trying to find a foothold in the race to the top.
The Boys in Blue insist they aren't fixated on winning the West.
“You guys probably don't believe me, but I don't pay attention to the standings,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “If you start worrying about other teams, how they do, how they play night in and night out, you lose focus on what you do.”
Now, Brooks admits that he looks at the scores every morning, reads through the box scores, even has NBA League Pass so he can watch whatever game strikes his fancy. But he isn't making coaching decisions based on where his team is in the standings.
“I'm really focused on how well we play, and I didn't think we played well enough to win tonight,” he said.