The Los Angeles Clippers came back from the dead in game 4, somehow beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 101-99. Thanks to going to a small lineup by Doc Rivers with Chris Paul and Darren Collison starring, while Blake Griffin finally started winning physical battles against Serge Ibaka, and the Russell Westbrook – Kevin Durant tandem and cooperation fell apart.
We’re tied at 2-2 despite the Thunder holding a 22 point lead in the first quarter, and despite the Clippers being behind by 14 points early in the fourth. Rivers went to something that usually works against the Thunder for a lot of teams: Going small. Blake Griffin came in for DeAndre Jordan, joining Chris Paul, Darren Collison, Danny Granger and Jamal Crawford. The result? Shooting 12-of-15 from the field and outscoring the Thunder by 16 points to win the game.
The Thunder have their variation of small, but it means a complete breakdown on defense. It leaves Serge Ibaka alone as center, while Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Caron Butler and Reggie Jackson roamed the floor. The Clippers found a way to slow down Durant or at least bother him, Westbrook went back to his selfish and unintelligent ways of closing games as the 5:47 of that unit together resulted in being outscored 21-8, shooting 2-of-7 from the field and turning the ball over three times.
The moment the Thunder went small as well, the Clippers found a way in. They made 14 of their 22 field goals inside the restricted area. They went away from the jump shots they struggled making earlier in the game (11-of-40 for the first three quarters). As always, playing faster on offense and attacking the lane with every opportunity usually results with more points. It had something to do with the Thunder falling apart on defense, but also the Clippers finally playing the right way.
Griffin led the team with 25 points in something that resembled a wrestling match more than basketball at times. Griffin and Ibaka goes way back, and the two were at it with low blows, elbows and shoving to oblivion. Griffin got the best of the blocking machine this time, as Ibaka missed a potential game-tying tip in with the clock running out. He was only 2-of-5 from the field, as there wasn’t too much of the ball sharing by Thunder players this time.
Collison finally showed up for the playoffs after struggling for the first 10 games. He scored 18 points off the bench, and was the perfect accomplice to Chris Paul’s defense and the turnovers the Clippers were able to generate. No one on the Thunder was able to keep up as he zoomed past them time after time as the Clippers stole the lead from right under their noses. Chris Paul finished the game with 23 points, 10 assists and 4 steals.
Back to OKC? The Clippers might try more of their small ball tactics from now on, showing once again the Thunder aren’t the same team when they have to take off their best defensive players from the floor. The Thunder were +22 with Perkins playing and +18 with Sefolosha. Offense is good, but when it becomes a running contest while Russell Westbrook ignores everyone including a 40-point scoring Kevin Durant, the Clippers have the edge.