Thunder need to bounce back from Game 4 collapse
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Kevin Durant says the Clippers are hanging all over him.
Russell Westbrook says they are flopping.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers believes the Thunder made a dirty play against Blake Griffin in Game 4.
Indeed, Game 5 of a Western Conference semifinal series that already has included 15 individual technical fouls ought to be interesting.
Oklahoma City appeared ready to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series on Sunday, but instead the Thunder squandered a 16-point lead in the final 10 minutes of a 101-99 loss that evened things up at 2-2. Control will be at stake on Tuesday, and the team that keeps its emotions in check could come out with the advantage.
Durant is frustrated with the way the Clippers are defending him. The Clippers had success with the 6-foot point guard Chris Paul guarding the 6-foot-9 Durant at times in the second half on Sunday. Though Durant made 7 of 10 field goals after the break, he also committed seven turnovers. Durant said Paul played him well, but he had a lot of help, some from 6-foot Darren Collison.
“Little guys get up under you, but they’re not just going to play me one-on-one,” Durant said. “Basically, they’ve got three guys watching me. They’ve got one behind me, so when I caught it, they double-teamed as soon as I caught it. And when they didn’t double team, I scored. People always have something to say about the 1-on-1 matchup, which never happens in this league, especially with me.”
Durant said there’s more than good defense going on.
“Every time I pass the ball, there’s a guy on my arm,” the league MVP said. “I’m 6-9. There’s no way two six-footers are going to get the ball. You do the math.”
When asked about the chippiness between the teams, Westbrook said the Clippers were creating some of it with their actions.
“There’s a lot of flopping going on, I can tell you that much,” Westbrook said.
The Clippers are not thrilled with some of Oklahoma City’s tactics, either. Thunder forward Serge Ibaka caught Blake Griffin with a shot to the groin in Game 4.
A league spokesman confirmed Monday that Ibaka will not be punished, and a Thunder spokesman said both teams were informed Monday the contact was deemed inadvertent. Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who said the league should review Ibaka’s punch, is unhappy with the way Griffin has been treated all season and in this series. The Thunder have left the star forward bloodied more than once.
“It is hard to keep your cool,” Rivers said. “You’re getting hit — I think at times, illegal hits. I think he’s been taking them all year and he’s been doing a great job of (dealing with) it. I don’t know if anyone has taken more punishment this year than Blake. In my opinion, some of them have been aboveboard and some of them have not been. People keep getting away with it.”
The Thunder need to stay focused and deal with those issues while moving on from the disappointment of Game 4.
“We’ve got to turn the page,” Durant said. “We gave it away. It’s unfortunate, but we come back home 2-2, and we’re looking forward to playing another game.”
If the Clippers win Tuesday, they will host Game 6 on Thursday with a chance to close out the series.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to start that game (Game 5) off 0-0,” Paul said. “We’re going into their place. I think we’ve got to bring that same energy and mindset — not the one we started off with — but just understanding that sometimes, you’ve just got to impose your will. Just play hard.”
Durant and Westbrook have been outstanding in the series, but the Thunder have lost when others haven’t produced. In Sunday’s game, Durant scored 40 points and Westbrook added 27, but no other player scored more than 10 points. It was a similar story in the Game 1 loss.
Durant said he needs to keep the ball moving so his teammates can be in better position to be involved.
“They can’t do it on their own, I’ve got to help them,” Durant said. “I’ve got to do a better job of catching the balls and passing the ball out of double teams better and being stronger with the ball. So it’s not on them.”
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he is confident that Durant and his teammates will make the right decisions in Game 5.
“They did some double teams that we were out of position on looking back,” Brooks said. “We have to be able to react quickly off of those double teams, and we will tomorrow night.”
The Clippers’ small lineup helped them outscore the Thunder 38-24 in the fourth quarter Sunday. Rivers isn’t sure how much he’ll use that lineup going forward.
“It’s not something you can bank on, it’s not something you’re going to do full-time or anything like that,” he said. “They’ve gone small at times as well and been successful. It really is going to be a game time and game situational thing for us. Having those three guards on the floor makes it very difficult to guard us. We know that. But it also puts us in a bind defensively.”