Chart Party: The Thunder's thrilling, weird comeback

On Thursday, the Clippers will try to recover from Tuesday night's gut-punch: an 11-0 fourth-quarter run to put the game away, followed by an almost impossible collapse. This, in charts and GIFs, is the story of that.

SB Nation 2014 NBA Playoff Bracket

The Thunder's Tuesday night win over the Clippers might not have been unprecedented. That's a question I'm not going to try to answer, because charts take a long time to make and there have been at least 100 games in NBA history. Perhaps even more! I just know that Oklahoma City's comeback was really exciting, and very weird.


Technically, those eight points actually happened within 38 seconds of game clock. If the Thunder had maintained the scoring pace of that painfully cherry-picked sample, they'd have scored 606 points in a game, which is nearly 50 percent higher than the limits I encountered in a video game. That alone certainly wasn't unprecedented; those lucky enough to have seen it will recall that Tracy McGrady once scored 13 points in a 33-second span all by himself.

Instead, the game's finish amazes me for two other reasons. The first is that the Thunder seemed to allow the Clippers to set the table for them. If there are four minutes left in a game, you're down 13, and your opponent has scored 11 straight, that ought to be a dagger.

Late in the fourth quarter of a playoff game, the Thunder stumbled through more than five minutes of game clock without a single point. That's striking, because the Clippers aren't necessarily a defensive juggernaut, both teams generally play at a pretty fast pace, and the Thunder are the Thunder. (I just can't get over this dang team. Several years into this team, I still can't believe they have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook side-by-side. They're only 25. If, four years from now, they aren't steamrolling through a 72-10 season, something terrible has happened to the human race.)

The second is that the Thunder and Clippers arranged for a scenario in which a Thunder comeback would require every single thing in the box score to go their way. As one might guess from that drywall-straight green line at the very end of the chart, everything did.

These are all of those things, and the statistical likelihood of them happening.



(Durant's three-point percentage during the 2013-14 regular season)



(Crawford's two-point percentage during the 2013-14 regular season was 46%)



(Durant's two-point percentage during the 2013-14 regular season)



(Westbrook's career free throw percentage is .815; this is the cumulative probability of him hitting three of three)



(During the 2013-14 regular season, Paul turned over the ball on 2.4% of his touches; this is the cumulative probability of it happening twice in a row)

Basketball is fluid, and the comeback could have looked like a million different things. Blake Griffin could have shot quickly and missed in place of a Chris Paul turnover, Thabo Sefolosha could have been the one to bury the three, et cetera. But if we accept the framework of this story -- that these shots were taken by these folks -- this is the basic cumulative probability of all those results swinging the Thunder's way.

Pt1-2_medium Longpt2-2_mediumLongpt3_medium

For further adventures in Chart Party:

• The Chiefs do not know how to draft quarterbacks

• Charlie Strong, god of recruiting


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