Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Thunder must leave ghosts of Game 4 in Los Angeles

Ever since they were blown out in Game 1 of the series, the Oklahoma City Thunder have regrouped and have played some quality basketball. The superstar duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook has been dominant and each time the Thunder have needed an extra help, Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson and co have been there to assist. It looked as though the Thunder were going to grab Game 4 and a commanding 3-1 series lead – but they fell apart in the fourth quarter and blew a 16 point lead (it was as large as 22) to fall to the Los Angeles Clippers 101-99.

Rather than ruing the missed opportunity to extend their series lead, the Thunder need to put the ghosts of that game behind them, focus on the positives that got them out to a double digit lead and then come out and take care of business at home in front of their faithful crowd at Chesapeake Arena.

This series has always been seen as one of the toughest matchups of the second round. The Los Angeles Clipper and Oklahoma City Thunder match up well against each other, split their four regular series meeting (2-2) and there has always been a “fiery” component to their encounters – and it has proven to be the case so far. While the Thunder have arguably been the better team in 3 of the 4 games, they still only have 2 of the required 4 wins needed to advance to the Western Conference Finals.

Now it becomes a “best of 3″ series. 3 games left, 2 wins needed. The Thunder technically have the upper hand as they have homecourt advantage after finishing as the second seed, but the Clippers know how to win in OKC and ran the Thunder out of the building in Game 1.

Head Coach Scott Brooks would be wise to focus on the aspects of the game that the Thunder are doing well. They have been able to score the basketball at a terrific rate and haven’t had the same issues running up the score that they did against the defensively minded Grizzlies. They have even been a better defensive team in the second round and have received a more balanced effort from the bench unit. However, they didn’t the same “intensity” in the final term of Game 4 that they had for the first 3 quarters – and that could be cause for concern.

With their backs against the wall, the Thunder seem to always find a way to get the job done. On this occasion, the Thunder had the game in the bag, but changed their mindset to allow the Clippers a comeback victory. Instead of focusing on what had helped them establish a 22 point lead at one point of the game, they tried to “save” the game and protect their lead. In a playoff series and against a team like the Clippers who can rack up points in a hurry, it is a dangerous mentality to have and one that cost the Thunder.

Without dwelling too much on the  result, the lack of “killer instinct” shown by the Thunder was disheartening. This young team is going to need to learn how to continue to apply pressure for 48 minutes and also develop the culture of “finishing teams off”. Really put your foot on their throat and send them packing in a huge way. A resounding 20 point win would have been a much better outcome for the Thunder heading into a potential “elimination game” than just holding on for a narrow win anyway. In the end, they gave momentum back to the Clippers and still have a battle on their hands for this series.

Momentum is a funny thing and sometimes you don’t realize you have lost it until it’s too late. Once the opposition has it, they are very hard to curtail and the Thunder learnt that lesson in Game 4. Now it is time to put all that behind them, work hard and ensure they have rectified the issues that caused the concern.

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Tags: Oklahoma City Thunder

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