LOS ANGELES — The most troubling thing about the Thunder on Saturday night was not what happened against the Los Angeles Clippers.
It was how it happened.
Somehow, with 75 games in the book, the Thunder is still searching for answers on how to play with focus for 48 minutes. It’s a sad but true reality. And of all the different areas this still-maturing squad is improving on, that one should have been aced ages ago.
Nevertheless, a 98-92 loss to the Clippers before a sellout crowd of 19,060 proved Oklahoma City isn’t there yet.
The Thunder blew a 16-point lead after coming out of the intermission and playing what could only be described as a horrible second half. The Thunder’s defense allowed the Clippers to score 61 points in the final 24 minutes, while OKC’s offense mustered just 43 on 16 of 43 shooting (37.2 percent).
“You got to play 48 minutes,” Brooks said. “You got to play the brand of basketball that we talk about. You can’t relax. This league is too good. When you do that you always get kicked. And we did that tonight.”
Against a Clipper team that appeared disinterested in being on the court, the Thunder dominated the first half. Oklahoma City led 40-24 with 4:36 left in the second period and held a 15-point lead with 1:45 remaining. The Clippers, though, closed the half on a 5-2 run that pulled them within 12.
“If we could have pushed that up to 20 by half it changes the game,” said forward Nick Collison.
Instead, the wheels came off.
When the Thunder stopped focusing on defense, the Clippers peeled off a 14-2 run midway through the third. That turned a 57-45 Thunder lead into a tie ballgame with 3:45 left in the period. Los Angeles’ run was aided by five technical fouls that were assessed to the Thunder in the quarter.
“With the way the game was going, they were kind of on their way back and I think those techs just pushed them over the top,” said Kevin Durant.