May 13, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) handles the ball against Los Angeles Clippers forward Glen Davis (0) during the fourth quarter in game five of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma City Thunder: After A Gift Game 5, Thunder Must Finish

The Oklahoma City Thunder made a spirited comeback in Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinal Tuesday night to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 105-104, taking a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7.

Game 6 is Thursday in Los Angeles, with Oklahoma City having their first opportunity to close out the series.

They’d best take advantage of it.

It’s been a mostly even series so far, with the Clippers outscoring the Thunder 504-503 in the aggregate. But in some key areas, the Clippers have been far superior.

They’re taking better care of the ball, averaging 11 turnovers per game to the 15.4 times a night the Thunder have coughed the ball up in the series.

L.A. has a slight edge in 3-point shooting, hitting 35.4 percent on 26 attempts a game, compared to Oklahoma City’s 33.9 percent on 21.8 attempts.

One area where the Thunder have been exceedingly good is on the glass, where they have thumped the Clippers by an average of roughly eight rebounds per game, with the advantage coming on the defensive glass.

That’s got to continue, because the 11.2 offensive rebounds the Clippers are getting per game is the exact number Oklahoma City is getting off their own window.

Each team has someone to point to as an underachiever thus far in the series, as well, and perhaps the key to clinching it—either way—is which of those guys heats up first, if they do.

Caron Butler had a decent first round against Memphis, hitting 40.7 percent from deep and providing a spark when he was inserted into the starting lineup in place of Thabo Sefolosha in Games 6 and 7 as the Thunder came back from a 3-2 deficit to win the series.

I believe “Godawful” to be the appropriate adjective to describe Butler’s play against the Clippers through five games. Yes, Butler is hitting 38.9 percent of his 3-pointers. But he is 2-for-14 from 2-point range, is shooting 28.1 percent from the series in 23.1 minutes a game and is being outperformed by Sefolosha so far.

Thabo is actually having a very efficient series so far, hitting 60.9 percent from the floor (only 3-for-12 from deep, however) and has an offensive rating in the series of 121.1 points per 100 possessions and a defensive rate of 110.4 for a net of plus-10.7. Butler, on the other hand, has ratings of 97.8 and 113, respectively, for a minus-15.2 net.

So why, again, is Butler getting 23 minutes a game and Sefolosha just 18.4?

Yes, I’ve been harshly critical of Sefolosha before, but he’s getting it done—it doesn’t take a genius to see that.

But between the controversial call involving Reggie Jackson late in the fourth quarter and a foul call that put Russell Westbrook on the line to his the go-ahead free throws, the guys in the gray shirts had a lot to do with the outcome of Game 5.

Oklahoma City caught some breaks—there’s no two ways around that fact.

So what they have to do now is take advantage of those breaks and finish what they couldn’t finish in Game 4 in Los Angeles.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have to put the Los Angeles Clippers away at the first opportunity.

This series has been way too closely contested to leave it up to a Game 7 coin flip.

Tags: 2014 NBA Playoffs Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Tyrone Bowman

    The Thunder stole Game 5 and the Clippers arguably stole Game 4 so we’re where we thought we would be after five games. It’ll be interesting to see how LA starts next game. If they begin in a big hole they’re done.

    • Phil Watson

      The only difference being is that the Thunder needed more help to achieve their comeback. Yes, the Clippers had an epic collapse, but the Jackson call and the call on the Westbrook 3 were huge.

      • Tyrone Bowman

        As much as I’d like to say the refs hosed LA they actually helped them in some respects. The zebras should have called a foul on Jackson. Instead according to the rules it was OKC’s basketball “due to the hand being slapped while the ball was in his grasp.” At first glance I thought the Westbrook foul was horrendous, but upon seeing it in slow motion I see Paul clearly hit him on the elbow. I’m not a huge fan of Chris, actually hate the guy. Paul’s a dirty player and so on….won’t get into my animosity, but do hope he bounces back from this. Most guys would not respond well to having single-handily (that’s harsh to say) lost a game.

  • Pupman

    The Thunder are arguably the best group of individuals assembled in the NBA. There are other great teams and great players, but the concentration of individual talent on the Thunder might surpass and eclipse that of any team in the league. That is the Thunder’s strength. But they don’t often play team ball offensively and that is their potential downfall. That is why they are not necessarily the best “team” in the playoffs and it is a shame. When the Thunder pass the ball they create open shots which and could drive another team crazy. Usually every person or at least 4 out of 5 players on the floor for that team is a major scoring threat. They could literally outflank other teams, but they just don’t play smart basketball way too often. They need to run more plays, get the team involved, and pass the ball. That is the way to the championship for them.

    • Phil Watson

      That’s funny, because when I look at their starting five and see Sefolosha and Perkins, I usually think OKC is playing 3-on-5 right from the opening tip.