The NBA playoffs have upheld the importance of playing a full 48 minutes. Countless big leads have been blown or close to being blown in these playoffs, which the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers experienced just recently. Yet despite erasing a big deficit in Game 4 to get new life in the series, the Clippers forgot how to hold a big lead in Game 5 on May 13 -- although the Thunder weren't the only ones to take it from them.
The Thunder's 105-104 win came after the Clippers held a 101-88 lead with three minutes left, as well as a 104-97 lead with under 50 seconds left. Yet when Oklahoma City cut the lead to 104-102 on five quick Kevin Durant points, a Chris Paul turnover resulted in Reggie Jackson and Los Angeles's Matt Barnes losing the ball out of bounds. While replays seemed to indicate the ball went off of Jackson, the referees saw it differently.
Their next example of questionable eyesight came when they ruled that Paul fouled Russell Westbrook on a three-point attempt. The result was three made free throws from Westbrook that gave the Thunder the lead, despite barely leading throughout the entire game -- much like how the Clippers stole Game 4. But Los Angeles couldn't steal Game 5 back, as Paul turned the ball over again before he could take a final shot.
The Clippers had momentum from their Game 4 rally, the lead for much of Game 5, and the chance to finish off the series in Los Angeles. Yet it learned the same lesson many others have experienced in these NBA playoffs -- that no lead is safe.
The fury behind the referees' two late calls against the Clippers overshadowed the actual comeback, especially when coach Doc Rivers repeatedly said they were "robbed" in his post game press conference. When the Thunder gave up their 16-point fourth quarter lead in Game 4, it was made possible without any controversial help. Nevertheless, the two teams are now even anyway, although Oklahoma City has the 3-2 lead.
Given how the NBA playoffs have been a haven for comebacks, a 3-2 series deficit is nothing, at least on paper. The accompanying slideshow lists the biggest blown leads -- or nearly blown leads -- in the postseason so far.