It's Up To Durant To Fix OKC's Late-Game Struggles


Tuesday, May 14th 2013, 5:28 pm
By: News 9


Game 4 was Oklahoma City's to win.

For the first time this series, Serge Ibaka played like an All-Star, scoring 17 points, hauling in 14 rebounds and swatting three shots.

Kevin Martin provided the scoring spark from his sixth-man role, scoring 18 points in just 26 minutes.

Nick Collison, who had four combined points in the first three games of the series, added 10 off the bench.

Reggie Jackson scored 15 points on 6-8 shooting as he logged a career-high 48 minutes. He also dished out eight assists.

Every guy in the rotation chipped in early as the Thunder built an incredible 17-point second-quarter lead and silenced the building they call the Grindhouse.

Coming into Monday, the thought was that if OKC's role players could just give Kevin Durant a little more help, it would be enough to push the Thunder over the top. And that's exactly what happened, but it didn't work.

This was the Thunder's game to win.

But somehow, some way, they lost.

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The large lead slowly evaporated while the fourth quarter and overtime were littered with one-on-one possessions, turnovers and forced fadeaways.

And after one of the most inspired efforts of the postseason, the Thunder left Memphis in a 3-1 hole, desperately searching for an answer.

So what's it gonna take to beat these guys?

To put it simply: OKC needs its closer back.

The Thunder has been flat-out abysmal down the stretch in the last three contests. In the final two minutes of each game, plus Game 4's overtime (11 total minutes), the numbers have been bad.

Real bad.

Oklahoma City has made a living off winning tight contests during the past couple seasons, but that clutch gene has abandoned them in the last three games.

In those aforementioned 11 minutes, Kevin Durant is 1-10 from the field and OKC is collectively 4-14. They've committed 13 fouls and five turnovers, which equates to a pace of about 57 fouls and 22 turnovers in a 48-minute game.

Oy.

Granted, a few of those fouls have been to stop the clock in desperation, but not the majority. In fact, Memphis won Game 3 87-81 after the game had been tied 81-81 at the 1:58 mark. All six of those points came from the line.

If one late-game possession hasn't ended in a missed shot, it's ended in a turnover. The Thunder's in every game. They're right there ready to take it – but for some reason they just can't.

And that's what's so mind-boggling. It's not like the Thunder doesn't have a go-to guy. There might not be a better closer in the NBA than Durant, but right now he's struggling. Just 1-10 in crunch time won't get it done.

There's no doubt he's tired, and there's no question there's an added weight on his shoulders without Russell Westbrook. But if his teammates can keep the game tight until the final minutes, which they did Monday, that's when Durant's got to finish the job.

Although hope seems bleak, this series isn't over. The Thunder has to win three in a row, but every game in this series has come down to execution in the final minute. It's not like Memphis is head-and-shoulders above OKC – the Thunder just has to make a couple more shots when it matters the most.

Eight teams in NBA history have overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series, and OKC will have two of the potential three games at home.

If KD can rekindle the late-game magic that's made him one of the NBA's most feared players, the Thunder will have a chance to pull it off.