The Oklahoma City Thunder were just minutes away from heading home with a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference semifinals. A 16-point lead in the fourth quarter wasn’t enough, though, and they enter Game Five tied with the Los Angeles Clippers.
L.A. was able to make a comeback, in large part because of the way they defended Kevin Durant. The Clippers outscored the Thunder by 14 points in the final quarter. The 2014 MVP put up impressive scoring numbers, registering 40 points on just 24 shot attempts, but Los Angeles was able to contain Oklahoma City’s offensive attack. As the rest of Durant’s teammates looked from him to make a play, the Clippers forced him into seven turnovers in a losing effort.
“We can't just sit there and just try to force it to me because that's what they want me to do,” Durant told reports on Monday. “They want those guys to front and get up under me. By the time we sit there and just force-feed it down, time is running off, so by the time I passed out of it, there's two or three seconds left on the shot clock. I've got to move around a little bit more and not try to demand the ball when there's basically two [defenders] going to guard me, so got to make their defense move.”
As the Clippers took Game Four, Chris Paul was the primary defender on Durant. The point guard gives up approximately nine inches to the much taller Durant, but he and the rest of Los Angeles’ defenders were able to force the league’s leading scorer into making difficult decisions.
"That's called desperate coaching," L.A. head coach Doc Rivers said after the Clippers' win. "Yesterday as a staff, we said Durant was beating us off the dribble. If you put a guard on him, you could make him more of a post-up player."
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The Clippers hope they can continue to put pressure on Durant. He hasn’t had much trouble scoring this series, averaging 33.3 points on over 50 percent shooting. However, he’ll need help from his supporting cast, in order to advance to the next round. He scored over 40 percent of the team’s points on Sunday. In Oklahoma City’s two wins this series, he accounted for less than 30 percent of the team’s points.
Paul was the Clippers’ defensive stopper in Game Four, but it wasn’t Blake Griffin or him that made most of the big shots. Darren Collison totaled 18 points, including 10 points in the game’s final five minutes. He only scored 18 combined points in the first three games, and was shut out completely in Game Three.
Player To Watch: Kevin Durant
Time: 9:30 p.m. ET
Place: Chesapeake Energy Arena
TV Channel: TNT
Online Stream: TNT Overtime
Point Spread: Thunder five points
Prediction: Oklahoma City 110, Los Angeles 104