The Thunder played wonderfully at times – which is how you build leads of 22 points in the first quarter and 16 in the fourth quarter – but an epic collapse produced a 101-99 defeat, and the grades reflect that:
First and third quarter defense: A. The Clippers made just six of 24 shots in the first quarter, missed all eight of their 3-pointers and scored just 15 points. The Clippers made just six of 23 shots in the third quarter, went 1-of-8 from 3-point range and scored 17 points. Blake Griffin made just one of nine shots in those two quarters.
Second and fourth quarter defense: D. The Clippers made 13 of 24 shots in the second quarter and scored 31 points. They made 14 of 22 shots in the fourth quarter and scored 38 points. In the fourth quarter, the Clippers had 24 points in the paint and made nine foul shots. Scotty Brooks waited too long to return to Thabo Sefolosha, who brought stability to the Thunder defense in Game 4. Thabo played just 21:30 the entire game. He played the final 2:38 of the second quarter, and the Clippers made just two of seven shots upon his return. Brooks also inserted Sefolosha with 2:57 left in the game, but this time, Thabo didn’t stop the Clipper spree. LA scored on five of its six possessions after Sefolosha’s return.
Game atmosphere: C. Another mediocre day at Staples Center. A late-arriving crowd – can’t blame traffic with a 12:30 p.m. Sunday tipoff – and silly game management. The Clipper crew blared the halftime music even when Chris Paul stepped to the foul line to shoot a technical, called at the end of the first half. And the scoreboard operator mistakenly listed Kevin Durant with two fouls in the first quarter, prompting Scotty Brooks to remove Durant from the game while the Thunder politicked to get it changed to the correct one.
Ball security: D. The Thunder committed 16 turnovers, leading to 22 Clippers points. Durant had eight of the turnovers himself. The Thunder had five turnovers in the fourth quarter, leading to eight LA points, which helped jump-start the Clipper comeback. All three of Durant’s fourth-quarter turnovers led to fast-break layups or dunks.
Ball distribution: C. Blake Griffin received his fifth foul with 3:40 left in the third quarter. But Griffin returned with 8:44 left in the game – and OKC leading 82-68 – and didn’t come close to getting his sixth foul. Serge Ibaka got two shots in the first minute or so of Griffin’s return (Ibaka was fouled on one of them) but none thereafter. Durant and Russell Westbrook took 15 of the Thunder’s 20 shots in the fourth quarter, five of its seven foul shots and committed three of its five turnovers. Ibaka’s jumper with 7:14 left was the final OKC shot by someone other than Durant or Westbrook.
Celebrity watch: A. Mark Wahlberg sat courtside and even participated in a timeout act. Boxer Floyd Mayweather and his entourage attended. So did Justin Bieber, Billy Crystal and Rihanna. From the basketball side, Magic Johnson, Baron Davis and Kyrie Irving were at the game, along with NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
Air Traffic Control: A. Ibaka did a wondrous job on Griffin early. Through three quarters, Griffin had made just five of 14 shots. He finished eight of 19, with foul shots helping Griffin finish with 25 points. DeAndre Jordan had decent numbers (seven points, 14 rebounds), but Kendrick Perkins kept Jordan largely in check. The Thunder outscored LA by 22 points in the 25:42 that Perkins played. Perk didn’t play in the fourth quarter.
Small ball: D. The Thunder’s small-ball lineup did not work in Game 4 – and it wasn’t working long before Clipper coach Doc Rivers went super small in the fourth quarter. In the first three quarters, the Thunder played 6:37 with a lineup that sported Durant at power forward. During that time, the Clippers outscored OKC 23-9. Then in the fourth quarter, the Thunder went small the final 10:06, against a Clipper lineup that was even smaller – Danny Granger was LA’s power forward. And the Clips outscored the Thunder 36-21, constantly breaking down the OKC defense.