Scotty Brooks went to the final 30 seconds of Game 4 without a timeout in his holster. And that’s OK. The Thunder got a better shot in free flow – Russell Westbrook’s open 28-footer with one second left – than it would have had Doc Rivers been given the chance to set up his defense.
Here’s the deal on timeouts. They’re not sick leave. They don’t accumulate. You can’t take them with you. Use them when you need them.
And speaking of not taking with you, the Thunder-Clippers holy war resumes Tuesday night, and all the momentum resides with the Clips. Which means as much as the three timeouts Rivers had in his pocket at Game 4’s end. You can’t take it with you.
That much is clear in playoff basketball. These riveting games are not a serial. It’s a new plot every night. It’s “Law & Order,” not the “The Sopranos.” Momentum lasts until the post-game dinner.
“They kicked our (butt) in Game 3, and for the majority of Game 4 they kicked our butts,” said Clipper sharpshooter J.J. Redick. “I don’t believe in momentum in a series. If there was any momentum … we beat the crap out of them in Game 1, so it’s been kind of a crazy series.”
You would think blowing a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter, like the Thunder did Sunday in Los Angeles, would turn a team distraught. But you’d also think a blowout win in Game 1 of a series would establish momentum that would be hard to derail. Instead, after blowing out the Grizzlies in Game 1 three weeks ago, the Thunder lost three of the next four, all in overtime. After blowing out the Thunder in Game 1 a week ago, the Clippers were outplayed for most of the next three games and are fortunate to be tied 2-2 as the series returns to Oklahoma City.
Kevin Durant dismissed momentum as a factor in the playoffs.
“We seen that last series, we’ve seen it this series,” Durant said. “You learn so much throughout these games, you rarely have the same type of showing two games in a row.”
The good NBA teams suffer from short-term memory loss. They’re like baseball relievers and NFL cornerbacks. They put defeat down the garbage disposal. The Thunder is particularly adept at moving on. Over the years, they generally have answered discouraging defeats with rousing victories.
Oh, sometimes history repeats. The Thunder went to Memphis for a must-win Game 6 and did just that, in dominating fashion. Then whipped the Griz in Game 7, too.
“I felt like from Game 6 to 7, that momentum definitely carried,” said Caron Butler. “We did a good job of keeping that momentum going and working it out for the best interest of the team.”
But is that momentum, or just the superior team exerting its will the deeper the series goes? No better depiction of momentum exists than the Clippers’ Game 1 shooting – 15 of 29 on 3-pointers, a 104-78 lead through three quarters – but since then LA has made just 19 of 74 from long range.
Every game is different. Every game has its own set of twists and turns. Rivers figures that rather than give his Clippers momentum, their big comeback is just going to anger the Thunder.
“They’re seething right now,” Rivers said. “They had an opportunity to go up 3-1, and now it’s an even series. We were almost on the mat and we got off of it. We didn’t get pinned.”
Every game in a series brings new insight. Some of it works long-term. In May 2013, Memphis didn’t put Tony Allen on Durant until late in Game 2. Seems like the biggest of follies. Was Chris Paul on Durant a fad, or something the Clips can ride to the Western Conference Finals? Some breakthroughs don’t carry over. Brooks’ small lineup carried the Thunder to victory in Game 3; it went belly up in Game 4.
Whatever happens in Game 5, and in the rest of the series, it won’t be momentum-based. Won’t be because the winning team caught a wave and rode it to victory.
The previous game doesn’t count. Law & Order started over every week. The Thunder starts over in Game 5. Game 4 won’t beat the Thunder. The Clippers will have to do that themselves.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at . He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.