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Oklahoma City 83 - Clippers 79 - This is How Seasons Are Lost

I'm pretty much speechless.  Despite not playing particularly well, the Clippers built a nine point lead midway through the third period against a Thunder team that frankly didn't look very good.  But from that 65-56 lead with a little more than 4 minutes to go in the third, the Clippers only scored 14 more points and lost 83-79

I know some of you are indignant about the coach, and you know, I want to be too.  After all, there are only so many options an organization has in mid-season.  It's pretty hard to swap out the entire team.  So people yell and scream for the coach to be fired.

But I'm hard-pressed to know what the guy did wrong in this game.  Was he the one missing 16 fourth quarter shots while making only 3?  Was he the one throwing passes directly out of bounds or directly to the opponent on key fourth quarter possessions?  Was he the one missing layups?  Maybe there were plays where the offense wasn't as sharp as it should have been, and maybe you can hang that on the coach for not preparing them.  But when the team comes down the court, and runs a play, and gets a layup for their best player - and he misses the layup,  I don't know how that's the coach's fault.

Nonetheless, there is something very wrong with this team.  They seem congenitally incapable of succeeding.  Oklahoma City was pretty much terrible in this game.  Aside from Kevin Durant, who scored 30 points on 12 for 20 shooting, none of the main guns for the Thunder had a good game, and Russell Westbrook had a full on nightmare, going 1 for 11 before taking a seat for the final 16 minutes.  (Come to think of it, the Clippers took their nine point lead minutes after Westbrook left the game and then the wheels came off.  So apparently Kevin Ollie was the key for the Thunder.)

But the Clippers were unable of taking advantage of the fact that the Thunder were mostly ineffective.  As I watched Chris Kaman, in vintage Mr. Flippy form, miss several easy third quarter chances, I thought to myself that those missed points were going to come back to haunt the team.  When they built the nine point lead anyway, I thought that just maybe they'd dodged the bullet.  In the end, the blown opportunities in the third quarter didn't matter much - because Kaman blew even more chances in the fourth.  He had every opportunity to make up for his earlier miscues.  I have him at five misses in the fourth quarter alone, all of them right at the cup.

In the end he finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds, so lucky for him, his personal numbers didn't suffer much.  But don't be fouled.  This was a game to go for 30 and 15.  With Eric Gordon out, his team needed him to put up big numbers.  He took 26 shots - a career high - in order to get those 20 points, making only 9 of them, which is less than 40%.  As good as he's been this season, he was terrible tonight.

The Clippers held the Thunder to only 17 fourth quarter points, a terrific defensive performance when it counted.  So how exactly does a team take a three point lead into the fourth quarter, and hold the opponent to 17 points, and still lose?  By only scoring 10.  Amazingly, half of the 10 points the Clippers managed to score in the period were gifts from the Thunder.  Serge Ibaka was called for a goal tend on a Kaman layup that probably wasn't going in based on the rest of the results in the quarter, and Al Thornton was fouled shooting a three that wasn't going in.  So the Clippers were lucky to make it to double digits.

When Thornton made his three free throws to tie the game at 79 in the final 90 seconds, it felt like it should be the Clippers game.  Let me rephrase that.  In a normal NBA universe, if a team struggles that badly, but manages to get back into a tie, they usually have a great chance - particularly a veteran team playing at home against a young team.  If we were talking about any team other than the Clippers, you would fully expect them to close out the win.  But the Clippers can't close an automatic door at this point.  They got the stop they needed with the score tied, and came down with a chance to regain the lead.  What shot did the end up with?  A Rasual Butler three.  Yes, Butler has hit a couple of big ones in his brief Clippers career, but after going 2 for 8 tonight, he's now at 12 for 41 on the season, which is under 30%.  On the next possession, now down two with 35 seconds left, the stellar defense of Nenad Krstic (that was sarcasm) forced Kaman to dribble behind the basket, jump in the air, and throw the ball to Kevin Ollie. 

Now down two with about a three seconds difference between the game clock and the shot clock, the Clippers still had a chance.  They decided to eschew the foul and let the Thunder run down the clock, trusting that they'd get the stop.  They did - but they forgot that they also needed to get the rebound.  Game over.

There were so many terrible plays in the fourth quarter, it's hard to remember them all, and yet I wish I could forget them.  Marcus Camby getting picked clean playing 5 on 3 after two OKC players had collided and fallen down.  Camby throwing a pass to Kaman that went straight out of bounds.  Kaman catching a high-low pass from Camby and missing the lay up (that one happened twice).  DeAndre Jordan missing a free throw by two feet.  And of course Kaman's last turnover.

This is how seasons are lost citizens.  I can feel the downward spiral starting already.