Clippers vs. Thunder: How Oklahoma City Can Take Control of the Series

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Clippers vs. Thunder: How Oklahoma City Can Take Control of the Series
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

With a chance to seize control and take a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 4, the Oklahoma City Thunder blew their opportunity.

The Clippers came back from a 22-point deficit and a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to win the game, tying the series at two games apiece with the pivotal Game 5 tonight in Oklahoma City.

As ESPN's Desmond Wallace points out, in NBA history the Game 5 winner in a series tied at two has gone on to win the series 83 percent of the time.

It's safe to say that this game will go a long way toward deciding the outcome of the series. For the Thunder to come out on top, there are a few key things they must do.

 

Keep the role players involved

In Game 4, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined to score 67 of the team's 99 points.

Reggie Jackson was the only other player to reach double figures, scoring 10.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

That's a far cry from where the team was in Game 3, when Serge Ibaka, Caron Butler and Jackson combined for 48 points.

You can always expect Durant and Westbrook to put up numbers, but there's no question that the Thunder become that much harder to beat when Ibaka, Jackson and others are getting involved as well.

 

Lock down the paint

The Clippers shot just 3-of-21 from three-point range in Game 4, but they were still able to reach the 100-point mark thanks to the Thunder's lackluster defensive effort.

The Clippers scored 52 points in the paint on Sunday, including going 12-of-14 in the restricted area in the fourth quarter alone.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Thunder were outscored 52-32 in the paint in Game 4, with the 20-point differential being the most in the series.

Throw in the fact that the Clippers are shooting just 17-of-74 (23 percent) from distance in the last three games, and the Thunder have every reason in the book to try to prevent them from getting to the rim and keep them shooting jump shots.

 

Keep their composure

Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

Over the course of the series it's been clear that the Clippers have gotten under the skin of many Thunder players.

As a team, Oklahoma City has been called for 10 technical fouls over the first four games, including two in Game 4. 

After Sunday's loss, Westbrook expressed his frustration when he accused the Clippers' players of flopping, via CBS Sports' Royce Young.

In order to regain control in this series, the Thunder have to keep their composure in Game 5, both with the refs and the Clippers.

In a series that has been as tight as this one, the last thing they can afford to do is give away points at the free-throw line.

Which team will win Game 5?

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Prediction

The Thunder will bounce back from a frustrating loss in Game 4 with a 114-106 victory and head back to Los Angeles with a 3-2 series lead.

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