The Oklahoma City Thunder picked up a massive 105-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night, taking a 3-2 lead in their Conference Semifinal matchup. The win wasn’t easy by any means, but it did show that the Thunder’s mix of heart, depth and a little bit of luck makes them the most dangerous team in the NBA Playoffs.
Oklahoma City actually trailed for most of Tuesday’s game, and a 101-88 deficit with 4:13 left in the fourth quarter looked to be the nail in the coffin. A timely 10-point barrage by a previously struggling Kevin Durant, — he shot 3-of-17 up until this point — great defense, a missed out-of-bounds call and a clutch three by Russell Westbrook turned the tides of this game, and the series as a whole. The ability to come back from a deficit like this would have been a herculean task for most sides, but the Thunder actually made it look relatively easy.
Moving forward, there is no doubt the Thunder have the momentum in their series, and it would be extremely surprising to see them not finish off the Clippers on Thursday at the Staples Center. Los Angeles has simply been on too much of a roller coaster ride lately to get over this devastating loss, and one can only hope that a playoff exit would quiet the Donald Sterling saga.
But it looks unlikely any team will quiet the Thunder, who are beginning to show that Westbrook and Durant can share the ball, and that the rest of the team can chip in timely points. During their current playoff run the superstars have averaged 30.8 and 27.3 points per game, respectively, while Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson have both averaged north of 10 points per game. And while scoring is nice, this core group and other stalwarts Thabo Selfolosha, Kendrick Perkins and Caron Butler have actually played shutdown defense, specifically when things have gotten tough.
All in all, the Thunder are a team coming off of a momentous victory, and one that likely will blast them to an NBA Finals victory. After all, they have a dynamic duo that no team in the NBA can match, a secondary unit of scorers to back it up and they aren’t afraid of playing gritty defense in order to win games. That is a perfect combination, and one that should have other teams — looking at you, Miami Heat – trembling.