OKC Thunder misses an opportunity

JENNI CARLSON —100-98 loss to the Clippers keeps Thunder from grabbing control of the Western Conference race.
by Jenni Carlson Published: April 11, 2012

We played in spurts.”

No doubt about that.

The Thunder had stretches where it was clearly the best team on the court, where it would hold Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and the rest of the Clippers in check, where it would get good shots and knock them down.

But then almost as quickly, the Thunder would have a defensive lapse or six and miss a few shots and let the Clippers right back into it.

Most egregious?

Paul, who managed only seven points in the first half, scored 24 points in the second half.

Twenty-four.

Worse, he scored a pair of baskets in the lane in the last minutes of the game. The first came on a putback of one of his own shots when absolutely no one blocked him out. The second came on a drive to the basket when there was no help-side defense.

It was as bad a defense as the Thunder has played this season.

Granted, Paul has the skill to get to the basket like he did. But to have no one there to contest his shot, to put a body on him after a miss? That's unacceptable.

Closing out games hasn't been a big bugaboo for the Thunder this season, but Wednesday, it didn't get the job done.

“Happens,” Thunder guard James Harden said. “Can't be perfect every night.”

If you want to finish atop the Western Conference standings, though, you might need to be.

“We're not worried about that,” Harden said. “You're going to have to win games in the playoffs no matter who you play.”

True, but in the West, the top seed has won the conference title and advanced to the NBA Finals 16 times since the current playoff format began in 1984. The odds are clearly in the top seed's favor.

Those are chances the Thunder could've swung in its favor with a win against the Clippers.

Wednesday night was an opportunity lost. The truth is, we may not know for a couple months just how much it will cost the Thunder.


by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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