In game 3 of this series the Thunder went to a smaller lineup that featured Serge Ibaka at center and Kevin Durant at Power Forward. They used this lineup in the fourth quarter to explode for 32 points in the period in the Thunder win. Clippers Coach Doc Rivers took note and had his own "smallball" lineup ready and when Blake Griffin replaced DeAndre Jordan with 8:44 left in the fourth quarter of game 4 the Clippers were down by 14 points and their lineup became Griffin at center, Danny Granger and Jamal Crawford at forwards, and both of the teams point guards in Chris Paul and Darren Collison. For the rest of the game the team scored 33 points, shot 12-15 from the field, and outscored the Thunder by 16 points. Griffin had 10 points in the period and Collison scored several key baskets down the stretch including one off of a Kevin Durant turnover that gave them the lead for good in the 101-99 victory
Due to the smaller lineup the Clippers elected to match up Chris Paul on Durant despite the fact that he is giving up nearly a foot in height. While Durant was 4-5 from the field he also turned the ball over three times in the final period. His defense was very aggressive and forced Durant to pass the ball out of early double teams. Paul also had his usual impressive numbers on offense with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists. Griffin started slow but finished strong for a total of 25 points and 9 rebounds. Collison had 18 huge points and 7 rebounds despite being the smallest player on the court. Crawford also had 18 points including a go-ahead three pointer late in the fourth.
Durant was dominant as always with 40 points and 7 rebounds on 12-24 from the field. Russell Westbrook had 27 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists. Unfortunately for the Thunder the only other double figure scorer was Reggie Jackson who had 10 points. The 3 other OKC starters combined for a mere 13 points. It seemed like every play in the fourth quarter was an isolation for either Durant or Westbrook. Wile the Thunder have proven they can win with their two stars taking the majority of the shots they will need to find ways to get more movement so more players touch the ball and shots open up for whoever the open man is.
Game 4 was a big loss for the Thunder. They had built enough of an early lead to win the game and they may never recover. They now head back home in a tie series as opposed to coming home to clinch the series. Both teams have shown they can shine with a smaller unit on the court. The biggest key will be to see what adjustments the Thunder make if the Clippers elect to defend Durant with Paul again. They will have to find a way to take advantage of that obvious size mismatch.
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