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Oklahoma City Thunder: Ranking the worst playoff losses

by Berry Tramel Modified: May 6, 2014 at 7:10 pm •  Published: May 6, 2014
Game 4 of the 2011 Western Conference Finals ranks as Berry Tramel's worst Thunder playoff loss. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
Game 4 of the 2011 Western Conference Finals ranks as Berry Tramel's worst Thunder playoff loss. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

The Thunder’s 122-107 loss to the Clippers in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals Monday night was discouraging. It gave the Clippers homecourt advantage and forced a virtual must-win for the Thunder in Game 2 Wednesday night. And not just the loss, but the way OKC lost. Very little resistance.

It was one of the worst playoff defeats in Thunder history. Here are the five worst Thunder post-season results, based not so much on margin of defeat, but on quality of play in a crucial game:

1. 2011 Mavericks Game 4: With a chance to tie the Western Conference Finals 2-2, the Thunder took a quick lead and dominated the game. Kevin Durant’s 3-pointer with 5:06 left in the fourth quarter gave OKC a 99-84 lead. And the Thunder still had a 101-91 with 21/2 minutes left. But OKC never scored again. Dirk Nowitzki’s two foul shots with 6.4 seconds left in regulation tied the game at 101, and Kevin Durant missesd a 3-pointer at the buzzer. In overtime, the Thunder’s only two baskets were scored by Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka. Jason Kidd’s 3-pointer with 40.3 seconds left gave Dallas a 108-105 lead, and the Mavs won 112-105.

2. 2012 Heat Game 2: The Thunder won Game 1 of the NBA Finals and had a chance to take a two-game lead with yet another victory at Chesapeake Arena. But Miami quickly asserted its will. The Heat stormed to an 18-2 lead, and the Thunder spent the rest of the night clawing back within reach of Miami. The Thunder didn’t get closer than eight points until midway through the fourth quarter. OKC finally got within six points with six minutes left. In the final minute, Durant scored five points in a 14-second span to cut a seven-point deficit to two. When LeBron James missed a shot with 14 seconds left, the Thunder had one final chance. But Durant’s 7-footer bounced off, and Miami survived 100-96. The first-quarter hole kept the Thunder from ever putting pressure on Miami.

3. 2011 Grizzlies Game 1: The Thunder opened the Western Conference semifinals with a dud. Memphis roared to a 16-point first-half lead. The Thunder rallied and got within three in the third quarter, but the Griz zipped back comfortably ahead and controlled the game. Memphis big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol dominated the Thunder, combining to make 21 of 33 shots and score 54 points.

4. 2011 Mavericks Game 3: The Thunder returned from Dallas tied 1-1 in the Western Conference finals, with a chance to take command of the series. Instead, the Mavs jumped to a 27-10 lead after one quarter, 35-12 early in the second quarter and 52-36 at halftime. The Thunder rallied and got within six points midway through the fourth period and eventually cut the deficit to four with 24 seconds left. But the Mavs held on for a 93-87 victory. Awfully disappointing performance for such a big game. Kevin Durant made just seven of 22 shots.

5. 2010 Lakers Game 5: The Thunder was coming off its first two playoff wins, having evened the Western Conference first-round series at 2-2. But the euphoria quickly evaporated in the Staples Center. The Lakers jumped to a 55-34 halftime lead and expanded the advantage to 31 late in the third quater. The final was 111-87. Laker stars Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol didn’t even play 30 minutes individually.

by Berry Tramel
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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