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OKC's improbable comeback

A look at how much the win swung the series, and that controversial replay

Updated: May 14, 2014, 11:56 AM ET
By Kevin Pelton | ESPN Insider

During a postseason full of memorable thrillers, the most important finish of all might have come Tuesday night in Oklahoma City. With their best-of-seven series tied at 2-2, the Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers battled for the upper hand. Just when the Clippers appeared to have stolen a crucial road victory, a furious Oklahoma City comeback and a mistake-filled final minute changed the outcome.

Let's take a look at how that happened and what it means going forward.

How unlikely was the Thunder's comeback?

According to Inpredictable.com, Oklahoma City had a 0.5 percent chance of winning when down 13 points with 4:01 to play. (For what it's worth, ESPN Stats & Information had OKC at 1.1 percent chance of winning.) By Inpredictable's win probability model, this comeback was more than three times more improbable than the Clippers' rallying from down 16 with nine minutes left in Sunday's Game 4. The Clippers' win probability never dropped below 1.7 percent in that one.

Back-to-back comebacks with odds of more than 50-1 against, along with another similar comeback in this year's playoffs (the Portland Trail Blazers had a 1.3 percent chance of winning in the fourth quarter of Game 1 against the Houston Rockets before prevailing in overtime) suggests the win probability model might be a bit too liberal in the postseason, when teams are more likely to chase any chance of winning a game that's seemingly out of reach rather than conceding and resting their starters. Still, Game 5 surely ranks among the greatest comebacks in NBA playoff history.

How much did the comeback swing the series odds?

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