NBA News Wire

Clippers use late rally to tie series

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LOS ANGELES — On the verge of heading back to Oklahoma City down 3-1 in this Western Conference semfinal series, the Los Angeles Clippers responded with the biggest rally in their franchise history.

“It’s an obvious thing, but 3-1 compared to 2-2 is a huge, huge difference,” said Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin. “Nothing really else to say.”

Despite 40 points from Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, the Clippers made a bigger statement by overcoming a 16-point, fourth-quarter deficit and pulling out a 101-99 victory over the Thunder in Game 4 before a sellout crowd of 19,365 at Staples Center on Sunday.

Reserve guard Darren Collison’s layup with 32.8 seconds remaining in the game was the difference and allowed the Clippers to even the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.

“It’s right up there,” Griffin said of the rally. “I remember two years ago, Game 1 in Memphis, we were down 20-something in the fourth quarter and came back. This is right up there with it just because of the circumstances.”

Game 5 is Tuesday in Oklahoma City.

The Thunder, who led by as many as 22 points in the first half, blew a 16-point lead achieved with 9:18 left in the fourth quarter. Guard Russell Westbrook missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have won it for the Thunder.

“It’s a tough loss, but it’s a series, man,” said Westbrook, who had 27 points, eight rebounds and six assists. “It ain’t like we’re going home (trailing). We’ll go back home and take care of business.”

They had a chance Sunday, but failed miserably with a meltdown in the final period, when the Clippers came through with a 38-point period and got key buckets by Collison, who scored 12 of his 18 points in the fourth, and point guard Chris Paul.

“It’s a three-game series,” said Durant, who connected on 12 of 24 shots, but missed six of his seven 3-point attempts and also committed eight turnovers. “Of course we let this one slip away. We could have took control of the series.”

The Thunder’s 16-point, fourth-quarter lead dwindled to 90-89 after a dunk by Collison with 2:57 left. The Clippers tied the score at 94 on a three-point play by Griffin with 1:50 remaining. Durant gave the Thunder a 95-94 lead with a free throw before guard Jamal Crawford’s 3-pointer gave the Clippers the lead.

Westbrook tied the score again at 97, but Collison gave the Clippers the lead for good with another basket with 59 seconds left.

Griffin led the Clippers with 25 points and also pulled down nine rebounds. Paul scored 23 points and dished out 10 assists, while Crawford added 18 points.

“This is one of the best ones yet,” Paul said of the comeback. “We got off to a very slow start. Even there in the fourth quarter, we could have relaxed, gave in at any point. I think we just willed this one.”

The Thunder imposed their will early, roaring to a 29-7 lead after Westbrook scored on a drive with 3:10 left in the first quarter. They led 32-15 at the end of the first as Westbrook (11 points) and Durant (12 points) combined to outscore the Clippers.

Los Angeles missed 13 of its first 15 shots to open the game, while Oklahoma City hit its first seven.

But the Clippers rallied in the second quarter, opening with a 20-7 spurt to cut Oklahoma City’s lead to 39-35 after two free throws by Crawford with 6:16 remaining. However, the Thunder increased the margin to 57-46 at intermission.

The Clippers outscored the Thunder 52-32 in the paint. They also outrebounded Oklahoma City for the first time in the series with a 45-43 edge.

NOTES: Thunder coach Scott Brooks showed a sense of humor when asked if F Kevin Durant’s MVP speech inspired the team’s improved play against the Clippers. “Something that was a little overlooked during that speech was I wasn’t given enough credit for being the speech writer,” Brooks said. … The Thunder outrebounded the Clippers by double digits in all three previous games, averaging more than 14 more boards per outing. … Thunder reserve G Reggie Jackson averaged 14 points in four road playoff games entering Sunday’s contest. … Clippers C DeAndre Jordan, the league’s No. 2 rebounder in the regular season at 13 boards per game, was managing eight per contest against Oklahoma City. … Both teams entered Game 4 scoring 111.7 points per game in the series. … The Thunder connected on 5-of-8 from behind the 3-point arc in the first period compared to 0-for-8 for the Clippers. Overall, Los Angeles hit 3-of-21 compared to 7-of-24 for Oklahoma City.