Thunder goes on improbable run, wins Game 5 to take 3-2 series lead

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By Kevin Green

With the way the last two games had gone, it was kind of hard to get a sense for Game 5. The Thunder came back on the Clippers in Game 3, then LA returned the favor in Game 4, coming back from 16 down with nine minutes to go to get the win. So as the series transitioned back to Oklahoma City, a lot was up in the air.

After the epic collapse in Game 4, it was clear what the Thunder had to do. Having put themselves in a must-win situation in Game 5, they had to come out and make a statement in order to regain control of the series. If they win the series, then that collapse in Game 4 and all of the questions surrounding the team’s mental toughness would be gone. However,  if they ended up losing the series, Game 4 would go down as the most crucial loss in the organization’s history. They just had to win.

Well, with the Thunder down 13 with four minutes to go, it looked like Oklahoma City would suddenly be down 3-2 in the series just like against the Memphis Grizzlies, but something happened and this team found a way. The Thunder went on a quick 9-0 run to cut the score to 101-97 with 1:24 left. Then Blake Griffin hit a free throw and Chris Paul made a deep jumper, and the Clippers lead was suddenly back to seven points with just 49 seconds remaining.

Once again, I gave up on the Thunder. I did not see a way they could win at that point, but just like they always do, they to proved me wrong.

Right out of a timeout, Kevin Durant once again flexed his MVP muscles, hitting a three with 43 seconds to go, making the score 104-100. Jamal Crawford missed a layup at the other end, and Durant made them pay again, getting a layup of his own to make it a two-point game with 17 seconds left. What happened next could very well decide how the entire series turns out.

Los Angeles inbounded the ball to Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook somehow knocked the ball out of his hands. The ball ended up in Reggie Jackson’s hands, and he went to rim with just about 11 seconds left on the clock. Matt Barnes knocked the ball out of Jackson’s hands, it went out of bounds and the officials headed over to the scorer’s table to view the replay.

I’m just going to tell you all this right now – the ball went off of Jackson. There is no denying that. It is a fact. Ordinarily, you would think that would mean Clippers ball, but not quite.

According to the NBA rule book, “If a player has his hand in contact with the ball and the opponent hits the hand causing the ball to go out-of-bounds, the team whose player had his hand on the ball will retain possession.”

It was made known later on that the rule was not what decided the final call, and refs signaled Oklahoma City ball.

“When the ball goes out of bounds, the ball was awarded to Oklahoma City,” head official Tony Brothers said. “We got to review the play. We saw two replays. The two replays we saw were from the overhead camera showing down, and one from under the basket showing the same angle but from a different view. And from these two replays, it was inconclusive as to who the ball went out of bounds off of. When it’s inconclusive we have to go with the call on the floor.”

On the Thunder’s next play, Westbrook got the ball behind the three-point line and let it fly. It was a bad play, but CP3 followed through a little bit too much on his contest and a foul was called. Westbrook went to the line to shoot three free throws, having a chance to take the lead if he made all them. He sunk all three, giving Oklahoma City a 105-104 lead with six seconds remaining. The Clippers had one more chance, but as Paul drove to the edge of the lane to take a shot, he dribble the ball off his foot. The ball rolled right to Serge Ibaka’s hands and that was that. Ballgame. Thunder wins.

“We were down 13 with [four] minutes to go and everybody was getting up and walking out. We were down seven with 47 seconds to go, but we ain’t going to talk about just the last play,” Durant said, almost cutting off a reporter’s question about the review. “How about the six plays we made before those fouls, that we made to put us in position? So a lot of people aren’t going to talk about that, they’re going to just talk about what happened at the end. I think we fought so hard, we went through so much adversity to come out on top, it’s kind of a shame people are going to try and take that from us because of the last few calls, but sometimes that’s how the game goes.”

“Probably the toughest thing I’ve been through, basketball-wise,” Paul said. “Everything that happened there at the end is on me. It was just bad basketball.”

KD on the win: “I’ve never seen a game like this, but that just shows that we keep going. That you can’t keep us down. That we’re going to fight until the end. No matter what happens, we’re going to lay it all out there.”

It was a controversial ending, for sure, but I’ll take it. It seemed like everything was going against the Thunder until the last four minutes of the game. KD couldn’t make a shot to save his life, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick couldn’t miss a shot to save their lives, and Westbrook was virtually the only player scoring for Oklahoma City. The Thunder had no business winning this game just like the Clippers had no business winning Game 4, but that’s how things work sometimes. Will the Thunder close this series out in six and head back to the Western Conference Finals, or will Los Angeles play an inspired game in Game 6 and force a Game 7? There’s no way to know at this moment, but I’m happy that OKC is not in a must-win situation, they have Game 7 at home if they need it. I’d rather have this thing over in six, though.


During the post-game press conference, Doc Rivers was enraged: “It was our ball. Everybody knows it was our ball. I think the bottom line was they thought it was a foul and they made up for it. In my opinion, let’s take away replay. Let’s take away the replay system. Because that’s our ball and we win the game. And we got robbed because of that call. It was clear. Everybody in the arena saw it and that’s why everybody was so shocked when they said Oklahoma City. That was our ball. Whether it was a foul or not — it was — but they didn’t call it … We made our own mistakes, we turned the ball over, we fouled the 3-point shooter, we did a lot of stuff to lose the game ourselves. But at the end of the day, we have a replay system that you’re supposed to look at, and I don’t want to hear about how they didn’t have that replay, that’s a bunch of crap. That’s what I heard, that’s a bunch of crap and you all know it and we did our own stuff, we should have never lost that game. We stopped playing with three minutes left, we milked the clock, we turned the ball over, we come out of a timeout and we’re supposed to foul Durant before he took the 3. So we made a comedy of errors, having said that we still have the right to win the game if the ball says it’s ours and that didn’t happen. That’s too bad, too bad for us. All right, we have two more games to play, but that could be a series-defining call, and that’s not right.”

I can’t say I disagree, but I don’t recall Rivers whining and complaining when Paul was draped all over Stephen Curry on the Warriors’ last second three-point attempt in Game 7 of their series. You can’t set the double-standard, dude. Now he has a fine headed his way, so I wonder if it was worth the scene.

Scott Brooks was lying out of his butt when he was talking about whether or not he thought the ball went out on Jackson. He said he couldn’t tell who it went off of, but there’s no way he couldn’t. It’s just like Doc said, everyone is the arena saw it.

KD was pretty bad all night until the end. He started 3-17 from the floor but went 3-5 in the fourth quarter for 10 points to end with 27 points. The Thunder needed him at the end and he stepped up big time. Just imagine if he was on his game for the entirety of the game.

The Clippers need to put CP3 on suicide watch after that game. He was so distraught that I actually felt bad for him. I mean, there were three bad plays in the final seconds that he absolutely could not make and he made every single one of them.

The Thunder is the most dramatic playoff team I’ve ever seen.

Derek Lewis of EastWord News made a good observation during the fourth quarter. He said, “Thunder offense looking all sorts of childish at the moment. It’s like a little kid playing 2K out there.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

There were so many three-point play for the Clippers. There was even a four-point play thrown in there.

Thunder with a four-point play: 0-3.

Thunder’s opponent with a four-point play: 1-0.

There was a flagrant foul called on Westbrook during the first quarter when he went up to block Griffin from behind. It shouldn’t have been a flagrant, but in today’s NBA, you just never know what they’ll come up with next.

Westbrook played one of the best games I’ve ever seen him play. Not just performance wise, but leadership wise. He put the team on his back while Durant struggled and he willed the Thunder during that comeback. He finished with 38 on 11-23 shooting, five rebounds, six assists and three steals.

“Russell carried us the whole game and definitely put me in position to hit those shots,” Durant said.

Serge Ibaka started 0-4 from the floor, but he made his next four shots to finish 4-8 from the floor for eight points.

I bet all of those fans that left early will tell their friends that they were there at the game for the entire time for one of the most amazing comebacks in NBA history.

Believe it or not, Steven Adams was the third leading scorer for the Thunder with nine points on 4-5 shooting.

Thabo Sefolosha had a couple of pretty awesome offensive plays. He did a fake behind-the-back pass to score the first basket of the game and then later on he dunked over DeAndre Jordan. He finished with eight points on 4-5 shooting.

Game 6 is on Thursday in Los Angeles.

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