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SPORTS: Oklahoma City Thunder

It's Panic Time For Thunder

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It's amazing how much things can change in 48 hours.

The Thunder's Game 4 loss in Houston was no big deal. Up 3-0 in the series, dropping a two-point road game to a desperate team wasn't anything to worry about.

The general feeling from the fans was: "coulda' swept 'em, shoulda' swept 'em. Oh well, we'll wipe 'em out at home."

But now what? The Thunder's deer-in-headlights performance in Game 5 is a much different story. The series is now 3-2 and the momentum is squarely with Houston.

It's panic time for OKC.

Wednesday's debacle at Chesapeake was stunning. Kevin Durant didn't score in the fourth quarter. Not a single point. Kevin Martin shot 1-10 and was severely outplayed by the likes of Patrick Beverly, Aaron Brooks and Francisco Garcia. Nick Collison shot 3-3 from the floor in seven minutes in the first half yet for some reason never re-entered the game. The ice-cold Thunder shot 8-33 from downtown, including an incredible 1-12 in the first half.

Oklahoma City played scared and the Rockets looked fearless.

And there's no reason to believe that's going to change as Houston now has plenty of confidence to go with its fearlessness.

Forget the regular season and forget Russell Westbrook. At this point, it really doesn't matter who the better team is; it matters who the hotter team is.

Everyone on Houston's roster is playing well. They're raining 3s from all over the court as OKC scrambles to find a lineup that can match up. If the Thunder goes big, Houston's possessions end in open 3s. If the Thunder goes small, Houston gets dunks and layups.

Oklahoma City's defense was so ineffective that coach Scott Brooks elected to go with the hack-a-Asik in the fourth quarter, wrapping up the Rockets' Turkish center on seven straight possessions in an attempt to get back in the game. But the big fella held his own, hitting 8-12 free throws to keep Houston in control.

It felt like a panic move. Actually, it was a panic move. Whether it had worked out or not, the fact that it had to happen is a bad sign. The No. 1 seed was desperately searching for an answer on its home court.

4/30/2013 RELATED STORY: Thunder Needs More From Martin

There's no question the Thunder misses Westbrook's energy and ferociousness. The problem Wednesday wasn't just a lack of made shots, it was a lack of competitiveness. And even without Westbrook, that can't happen.

No team in NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 hole to win a playoff series. But unless someone on the Thunder steps up and seizes control of the team's psyche, we might be witnessing history soon.

With all that said, it was a seven-point game. The Thunder couldn't have played much worse, and it was still somehow single-digits. That's the encouraging sign Brooks must hammer home as the series shifts back to Houston for Game 6 Friday night.

The last thing on Earth Thunder fans want to see is James Harden getting a chance to win Game 7 back in Loud City. That makes Friday crucial. Durant has to finish. Martin MUST show up. And the defense  must guard someone. Anyone.

OKC is still one game away from escaping this potential disaster. The Thunder has two more chances to put together 48 minutes of intense, focused basketball.

And they better, or every Thunder fan's worst nightmare will actually come true.

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