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What did devastating Game 4 teach the Thunder?

by Darnell Mayberry Published: May 24, 2011

Kevin Durant's solemn streak reached day three Tuesday.

With his team facing elimination following a colossal collapse against Dallas in Game 4, the Oklahoma City Thunder star again was reduced to soft and short sentences while discussing his emotions and those of his team.

“It was a tough pill to swallow (Monday) night at home,” Durant said Tuesday afternoon before the team departed for Dallas for Wednesday's Game 5. “I didn't talk to nobody, my mom, my grandma. I usually have a good time with them. But it was tough.”

In the next breath, Durant, much like his teammates and coaches, tried to produce something positive, something that assured all hope is not lost and that this can still be a series.

“I got faith,” Durant said. “And I'm just going to lay it all on the line.”

The Mavericks have taken a mighty 3-1 lead in this Western Conference Final. To advance to its first-ever NBA Finals, the Thunder must now dig itself out of a hole from which only eight out of 200 teams have ever escaped. Not only must the Thunder win three straight, but it also has to steal two victories inside American Airlines Center and get the first while the pain of Monday's forgettable final 10 minutes is still freshly woven into everyone's emotions.

The Thunder blew a 15-point lead with five minutes remaining in regulation in Game 4. Dallas outscored Oklahoma City 28-6 in the final 10 minutes and dealt the young Thunder its cruelest blow in playoff basketball.

But with expectations having evaporated, Game 5 is the perfect stage for the Thunder to show what it's learned.

“When you get punched, you have to get up,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “If you don't, you're not going to grow.”

But the Thunder didn't just get punched in Game 4. It got mule-kicked.

Oklahoma City made just 3-of-16 shots while turning the ball over four times in the final 10 minutes as the offensive execution from the first 3 1/2 quarters vanished.

Dallas did such a number defensively on the Thunder that it left the league's reigning back-to-back scoring champ stumped. A day later, Durant still didn't know what hit him.

“To be honest, this is one of the only times I didn't know what to do at the end of the game,” Durant said. “I was catching the ball. I couldn't really see any lanes. There weren't any seams to get through. I felt like I was getting doubled. I just didn't know what to do.”

After making a 3-pointer to give the Thunder a 99-84 lead with 5:06 left in regulation, Durant went 0-for-6 from the field with two turnovers in the game's final 10 minutes. Five of Durant's shot attempts were from 3-point range, and the sixth was a 22-footer, tell-all signs of how stiff Dallas' defense was. Fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook wasn't much better. Westbrook went 1-for-6 with two turnovers over that same span. He also missed a pair of free throws that could have given the Thunder a nine-point lead with 2:11 to play in regulation.

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