They want you to believe it happens and it's no big deal.
The problem is those excuses no longer hold water. They ran their course long ago.
The Thunder blew a 17-point, fourth-quarter lead Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers inside Staples Center and fell 114-106 in a double-overtime decision that it had thoroughly dominating for the first three quarters.
“We got cold when we needed to stay hot,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
Once again, a severe offensive drought doomed the Thunder. This time, it was a 9-for-36 shooting performance in the fourth quarter and overtime. This time, the Lakers outscored the Thunder 53-29 in the final 22 minutes.
And this time, it all but sealed the Thunder's fate as the 2-seed in the Western Conference.
“We were taking jump shots,” Brooks said.
And tons of them…obviously with very few of them falling.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined to shoot 14-of-56 for the game. In the fourth quarter and overtimes, the Thunder's All-Star duo went 6-for-28. Durant was 5-of-19 over that span.
“It wasn't out of poor execution,” Brooks maintained. “We got good looks. Normally we make those shots. And I'll take those next game.”
With spark plug James Harden nursing a concussion in the locker room from halftime on, the Thunder was missing its best playmaker when it mattered most and struggled mightily as a result. But even without the projected Sixth Man of the Year, the Thunder should have held on to a 79-62 lead with 10 1/2 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Had it done so, the Thunder would have wrapped up this five-game road trip with an impressive 4-1 record heading into the final two regular season games.
Instead, the Thunder dropped to 3-2 on the trip, fell 1 1/2 games behind San Antonio for the top seed and, worst of all, now must enter the postseason facing familiar questions about its ability to close out games.
This was the third straight loss the Thunder suffered because it simply couldn't close the door. It was the second time in seven days that the Thunder collapsed in this building. Last Monday, OKC scored just 25 second-half points against the Clippers in a 92-77 defeat. And in a two-point loss to the Clippers on April 11, the Thunder scored just nine points in the final seven minutes, making just 2-of-7 shots over the final 6 1/2 minutes while turning it over twice.
“I'm not worried at all,” Brooks said of the team's continued offensive struggles. “All I focus on with our guys is getting a good shot. You're not going to make every shot. Things aren't going to always be perfect. You have to keep defending. And we put ourselves in a (position) to still win the game. But we did not make shots in the fourth quarter. But we got good shots.
“I believe in Kevin. I believe in Russell. I believe in what our guys do. Some nights they're not going to fall for you. But as long as their execution is good and the shots are good, you've got to live with the results.”
The Thunder did indeed miss a boatload of quality shots. But when things got tight — and the Thunder kept clanging them — there never came a point when OKC made the adjustment and turned down good shots for great shots. Nothing illustrated that point more than Durant and Westbrook both settling for potential game-winning 3-pointers with the game tied instead of attacking for a chance at higher percentage shots. Durant missed a 3 at the end of regulation. Westbrook missed an off-balance 3 at the end of the first overtime.
“You always can say that if you miss you could have shot a different shot,” said Durant, who scored a game-high 35 points but needed 34 shots. “I made that one before. I felt confident in it when it left my hands, just like a lot of my other shots. But it just didn't go in.”
The incessant jumpers ultimately ruined the Thunder. At the other end, the Lakers attacked and worked their way to the free throw line, making 16 of 23 foul shots in the fourth quarter and overtime. Over that same span, the Thunder earned, and made, just eight.
“I'm not concerned,” said Kendrick Perkins of the offense. “At the end of the day, offense wins games but defense wins championships. I strongly believe that. The teams that are the best defensive teams in the playoffs are the teams that win. So I'm not too much worried about our shots because I feel like if we force turnovers we'll get fast break opportunities.”