Los Angeles Clippers at Oklahoma City Thunder
Series tied at 2
Chesapeake Energy Arena
6:30 p.m. PST
May 13, 2014
1. Was Game 4 the best win in Clippers history?
Michael Shagrin, (@mshaggy): A reluctant no. There was something more magical about the 20+ point comeback to beat Memphis in first round two years ago. That was the first Clippers playoff game since the Daniel Ewing/Raja Bell fiasco, something that could’ve turned into a Cabin in the Woods-style harbinger.
Patrick James, (@patrickmjames): No. The game was fantastic, but the comeback wasn’t as improbable as Game 1 against Memphis in 2012. And it was less of a spectacular back-and-forth battle than Game 7 against Golden State this year. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t amazing. It was. But think of it this way: It’s a good thing that every hard-fought playoff win doesn’t automatically qualify as a superlative victory — it means the team is, you know, getting better.
Seth Partnow, (@WhrOffnsHppns): Depending on how the rest of the series goes, it might be remembered as such. But until then, can’t put it ahead of Game 7 of the first round simply because that was a Game 7, and all that was going on around that series.
2. Why have the Clippers struggled so much to hit jumpers in this series?
Shagrin: Each player has had his own personal problems. Matt Barnes is not an elite jump shooter. He’s either on or he’s off and this series, he’s been off. Jamal Crawford has the same disease but his swings have been more extreme since a late-season calf injury. J.J. Redick was never himself after returning from his variety of maladies and I’ll go ahead and chalk up Griffin’s shooting struggles to fatigue — you need some serious lift to shoot over Serge Ibaka consistently.
James: No idea. According to NBA.com, the Clippers are shooting just 33 percent on jumpshots. You can attribute some of this to the Thunder’s length and athleticism, but part of the problem is that L.A. has been missing a ton of uncontested shots, too. Eventually, there should be some mean regression, though that’s not to say that we’ll see another display like we saw in Game 1. Failing an improvement in shooting, you have to hope for another performance like the fourth quarter of Game 4, when — on a night the team went 3-for-21 from behind the arc — the Clippers did virtually all their damage in the paint.
Partnow: Some of it is guys just missing shots. Some of it is OKC being generally excellent at closing out to shooters. And some is the Clippers (especially Blake Griffin) not moving the ball quite quickly enough.
3. Will the heavy minutes totals for Blake Griffin and Chris Paul catch up to the Clippers down the road?
Shagrin: Yes. We’ve seen it every year. Vinny D rode them hard down the stretch of the regular season before he was shown the door, and last year’s Memphis series featured both Clippers stars playing well below peak form. With the Clippers safely capturing homecourt and Doc’s job as secure as anybody’s in the association, this was not the case going into the playoffs this season. But if the Clippers are going to the show, Doc will certainly have to lean on Griffin and Paul more than is optimal for their working bodies.
James: I don’t think so. This is the healthiest the duo has been for the playoffs in three years together, so there’s no sense in trying to get rest now. Players take beatings all season, and surely there’s an increase in physicality come playoff time. But as anyone who’s played sports at any level that included a postseason knows, excitement and drive trump fatigue at the end of the season. Besides, the two stars of the Thunder have been logging some pretty heavy minutes, themselves.
Partnow: Maybe. So what? It’s no different for any team. KD and Russ are playing huge minutes. As are LeBron and Paul George. Even Tim Duncan is up around 35 minutes per game during the playoffs.