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How 43 Seconds Drastically Changed the Clippers' Odds of Advancing to the Western Conference Finals

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The Thunder had a 1% probability of winning with 43 seconds left, and then the craziness ensued.

After what was perhaps the best first round in NBA playoff history, the second round has, not surprisingly, been a little bit of letdown. I mean, when five of the eight series goes seven games (a record) and there are four straight overtime games (another record) between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Memphis Grizzlies, it's nearly impossible for the second round to live up to expectations.

Although that has been true for most of the second round series, apparently the Thunder and Clippers missed that memo. In what was the second crazy fourth quarter comeback in as many games, the team with a win percentage over 95% in the last couple of minutes somehow didn't win.

After Game 4, I wrote about the Clippers' crazy comeback and posted a win probability graph that our Twitter account sent out. Check it out.

If you thought that was a crazy graph though, here's the one from last night.

What Happened?

At the point in the graph where the two teams are on opposite spectrums, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin had just run a pick and roll, resulting in a CP3 pull-up jumper at the foul line to go up 104-97 with 49.2 seconds left. Ball game, right?

Here's a timeline of the next events that had to occur for the Thunder to change their 1% win probability to an actual victory.

43.7 seconds left: Durant hits a three-pointer over Big Baby, pulls Thunder to 104-100
21.1 seconds left: Clippers have run off the clock, Crawford misses an easy layup
17.8 seconds left: Westbrook grabs rebound, hits KD for a transition layup, Thunder cut it to 104-102
11.3 seconds left: Clips inbound to CP3, Westbrook strips him, ball goes to Reggie Jackson and eventually out of bounds to the Thunder
6.4 seconds left: Inbound to Westbrook, pulls up for a three, and CP3 "fouls" him on the shot
6.4 seconds left: Westbrook (83% career FT shooter) hits all three pressure free throws to go up 105-104
End of game: CP3 loses the ball to Ibaka, game over.

Per the Numbers Never Lie Twitter account, prior to the Clippers comeback on Saturday, 96.9% of teams that held 13 point 4th quarter leads went on to win. The numbers couldn't have been more in L.A.'s favor, just as they were on Saturday for the Thunder - they had sizable lead in the last quarter, and as much as a seven-point lead with under a minute to play.

The Clips then turned it over twice, missed a crucial layup, and fouled a three-point shooter all in 43 seconds. Meanwhile, the Thunder got hot - Durant was 4 of 20 prior to the last two buckets in the final minute. Despite being as cold as possible (20% is pretty cold), he still had the confidence to step up and drain a three to start the epic comeback.

And for all the Westbrook haters - not many players can make the plays he did last night. He hit three pressure free throws, and also got a big rebound and assist to KD to cut it to two. And, of course, he stripped CP3 to get the ball back for the win. He was huge last night.

What It Means for the Series

So how did last night's comeback change the Thunder's odds for the series and for future series? I'm glad you asked!

Odds to Win Second RoundOdds to Win WCFOdds to Win Finals
Before G550.75%23.18%14.52%
After G572.11%33.35%20.37%
Increase+21.36%+10.17%+5.85%

As you can see, prior to Game 5, this series was pretty much a coin flip. The last minute of last night's game changed everything. Sure, the Clippers can still come back and win the series. And after the last two games of craziness, I wouldn't put anything past that happening. But the odds say that Westbrook and KD made a big difference in the playoffs odds last night. Sometimes when you let "Westbrook be Westbrook", you get epic performances.

Here are the numbers for the Clips after last night. Warning: Clipper fans may want to stop reading here.

Odds to Win Second RoundOdds to Win WCFOdds to Win Finals
Before G549.25%26.40%17.22%
After G527.89%14.72%9.60%
Decrease-21.36%-11.68%-7.62%

If the Clips had won last night, our algorithms say they would have been at 78.97% odds to win the series. The difference of 78.97% and 27.89% (51.08%) is drastic and a tough pill for Clippers fans to swallow, especially since that crazy change all occurred in 43 seconds.

The 2014 NBA Playoffs, ladies and gentlemen.

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In This Article

Chris Paul
PG, Los Angeles Clippers

Kevin Durant
F, Oklahoma City Thunder

Serge Ibaka
FC, Oklahoma City Thunder

Reggie Jackson
G, Detroit Pistons

Blake Griffin
FC, Los Angeles Clippers

Russell Westbrook
PG, Oklahoma City Thunder

Jamal Crawford
GF, Los Angeles Clippers

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