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Berry Tramel

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Oklahoma City Thunder: Blowing big leads hasn't kept some teams from title

by Berry Tramel Modified: May 13, 2014 at 6:05 pm •  Published: May 13, 2014

Oklahoma City's Caron Butler (2) talks to Russell Westbrook (0) near coach Scott Brooks during 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. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Caron Butler (2) talks to Russell Westbrook (0) near coach Scott Brooks during 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. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

Scotty Brooks presided over an epic collapse Sunday in Game 4 against the Clippers. His Thunder lost to LA 101-99 after leading 82-66 with 9:02 left in the game. But it wasn’t Foreman Scotty’s biggest player collapse. As a player, Brooks was involved in an even more discouraging loss.

In Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, the Rockets blew an 18-point lead and lost to the Suns 124-117 in overtime. Worse yet, that game was in Houston. But it only set the stage for an even bigger collapse.

In Game 2, the Rockets led 104-84 with 10 minutes left in the game but scored just one more basket in regulation, on a Sam Cassell 3-pointer. The Suns staged a 24-4 run to send the game into overtime. Danny Ainge’s 3-pointer with 32.9 seconds left tied the game for Phoenix. Houston’s Hakeem Olajuwon and the Suns’ Charles Barkley missed turnaround jumpers in the final 15 seconds.

The Suns scored 12 of the first 15 points in overtime, but Robert Horry and Brooks hit consecutive 3-pointers to make it 120-117 with 36 seconds left. Johnson and Ainge then hit two free throws each to hold off Houston’s comeback attempt.

It was the biggest blown fourth-quarter lead in the history of the NBA playoffs. The Rockets scored just eight fourth-quarter points, an NBA playoff low for a quarter.

Only one NBA team ever had lost the first two games of a series at home and rallied to win the series. But those Rockets did it. And three weeks later after the collapse, Houston won the NBA title.

Heck, here’s another example of a team recovering from such disaster. In the 2011 first round, the Mavericks led Portland two games to one, then took a 23-point lead late in the third quarter. But LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy each made baskets in the final 35 seconds to cut the Blazers’ deficit to 67-49.

Dallas still led 73-56 with 9:35 left in the game and 80-70 with 3:33 left. But Portland kept coming. Roy’s 3-point play tied the game with 1:06 left, then Roy’s 9-footer gave Portland an 84-82 lead with 39.2 seconds left. Jason Kidd and Jason Terry missed shots in the final 30 seconds for Dallas.

Roy scored 18 points in the final quarter and 20 points in the final 12:02.

But Dallas rallied to win that series — and went on to win the NBA championship.

But before you think it’s all good omens for the Thunder, remember this game.

2012 first round, Memphis vs. the Clippers. Game 1. The Grizzlies took a 27-point lead in the third quarter and still led by 24, 95-71, with eight minutes left in the game. And Memphis quit scoring. The Grizzlies scored just one point in almost nine minutes, and the Clippers came roaring back. LA cut the gap to 95-82 with 5:44 left, then neither team scored for almost three minutes. But the Clippers’ Nick Young sank three 3-pointers in a one-minute span, making it 96-93 with 1:47 left.

Blake Griffin’s two foul shots with 1:30 left put the Clippers behind one point, then Reggie Evans’ layup with 50.3 seconds left gave LA the lead. Rudy Gay’s 10-footer returned the lead to Memphis, but Chris Paul sank two foul shots with 23.7 seconds left to put the Clippers up 99-98, and Gay’s 15-footer with one second left bounced.

Those Clippers went on to win the seven-game series , with a Game 7 victory in Memphis.

 

 

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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