How the Clippers overcame 16-point deficit in fourth quarter to beat Thunder

Marc J. Spears
Yahoo Sports
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How the Clippers overcame 16-point deficit in fourth quarter to beat Thunder

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers had one request Sunday evening after his team possibly saved its season with an improbable fourth-quarter comeback against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

"I want a beer," Rivers said.

The Thunder led by as many as 22 points in Game 4 and were still up 16 with 9:19 left, leaving them in position to push the Clippers to the brink of elimination. Darren Collison made sure that didn't happen.

Collison threw a charge into the Clippers and scored 12 points in the final quarter as Los Angeles surged past the Thunder for a stunning 101-99 victory that tied the series at two games apiece.

The biggest comeback win by the Clippers this season kept them from returning to Oklahoma City for Game 5 on Tuesday one loss from the end of their season. Instead, the best-of-seven playoff series is now tied.

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"This is one of the best ones yet," Clippers guard Chris Paul said. "We got off to a very slow start. "Even there in the fourth quarter, we could have relaxed, you know, gave in at any point. I think we just willed this one.

Said Thunder forward Kevin Durant: "It's 2-2. We'll go back home and take care of business."

The Clippers went to a small-ball lineup Rivers said he hadn't used all season, and dominated the fourth quarter with 12 fast-break points and nine made free throws. In addition to Collison's 12 points in the quarter, Blake Griffin and Paul also combined for 18 points. The Thunder had never given up more than 31 points in a fourth quarter all season. The Clippers scored 38.

"We take a lot of pride in what we do defensively," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "When they were down, they played with a lot of desperation. They were able to spread us out…

"Everybody got involved in their offense. Defensively we have to do a much better job."

Durant scored a game-high 40 points in Game 4, including 10 in the fourth quarter. The Thunder limited Durant to five shots in the fourth by defending him with Paul to beat him to his dribble – and doubling him defensively once he got the ball. Russell Westbrook took 10 shots in the fourth quarter and missed six.

Durant declined to give Paul credit for slowing him down, saying Paul's defense "didn't do nothing." Rivers said the strategy was "desperate coaching."

"Yesterday as a staff we said Durant was beating us with the dribble," Rivers said. "If you put a guard on him, you could make him more of a post-up player. … He just missed shots."

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Even with the blown lead, the Thunder still had a chance to win or tie the game at the end of regulation. After a missed lay-in by Griffin, Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha ended up with the ball and had Durant and Westbrook open and streaking down the court. Oklahoma City had no timeouts.

Sefolosha chose Westbrook, who attempted a decent 25-foot 3-pointer for the win that was lightly contested by Collison. Westbrook's shot didn't fall and he jumped in the air and yelled and cursed afterward while the Clippers celebrated.

"It was a good look," Westbrook said. "…Obviously, we didn't have any more timeouts to call one. But I thought it was a good look. Just didn't go in."

The Clippers are still dealing with the fallout of Donald Sterling's racist comments and the NBA's ensuing punishment of him. Los Angeles avoided elimination in the first round with a Game 7 victory over the Golden State Warriors. Somehow, the Clippers keep finding ways to survive.

The Thunder still own home-court advantage with the series reduced to a best-of-three, but Rivers likes the resiliency of his Clippers.

"They're seething right now," Rivers said of the Thunder. "They had an opportunity to go up 3-1 and now it's an even series. We were almost on the mat and we got off it. We didn't get pinned. We're back and now we're all even."