It seems the Los Angeles Clippers can’t steer clear of controversy. Game five of their seven-game series against the Oklahoma City Thunder resulted in comparable fashion.
Fact is the Clippers had a 7 point lead with 40-seconds to go. There’s blame to be had in the guys garbed in blue and the three-man team dressed in stripes. After Kevin Durant sunk a contested 3-point shot and a break away layup to bring the Thunder within four points, Chris Paul turned the ball over with 17 seconds on the clock. Despite being fouled by Russell Westbrook, the ball sprang loose and was picked up by Reggie Jackson who would drive to the lane to be fouled by Matt Barnes, and lose the ball out-of-bounds. The Thunder would win the game by a narrow margin, 105 to 104.
In equal recognition of a missed call and the Clippers poor play late in the game, Doc Rivers commented, “It was our ball, we got robbed. We made our own mistakes but we have a replay system and to say you couldn’t see it on the angles you had, that’s a bunch of crap.” Rivers continued, “There were a lot of errors, most of them by us, but then there was one huge error (by the officials), on that call they got it wrong. That could be a series defining call – a horrendous call. But we put ourselves in that position with a comedy of errors.”
And there were errors, however not on the comedic side. A 17-3 Thunder run to close the game reversed the game’s momentum, and a controversial out-of-bounds call that went the Thunder’s way gave OKC the ball with 11.3 seconds to play. With the chance they needed to steal a win, the Thunder took advantage of the Clippers relaxed defense and motionless offense late in the game. They attacked a vulnerable Clippers team.
Lead official Tony Brothers responded to the controversial play saying, “We saw two replays and from those two replays it was inconclusive as to who the ball went out-of-bounds off of. When it’s inconclusive we have to go with the call on the floor (which was OKC ball).
In the last four minutes of the game the Clippers missed five of their final six shots and Paul turned the ball over twice. He would finish the game with five turnovers in total. In that same time span Kevin Durant scored 10 of his 27 points on the night.
Blake Griffin got out to a hot start scoring 11 of his 24 points in the first quarter, while DeAndre Jordan would sit for the majority of the first half after collecting his third foul by the first two minutes of the second quarter. Jordan would finish the night with zero points and four rebounds. As a team the Clippers shot 50 percent in the first quarter, compared to 42 percent in the second half. OKC’s Russell Westbrook led the way for OKC scoring a game-high 38 points.
In their last two losses to OKC, the Clippers have made the mistake of not adding swingman J.J. Redick to the lineup late in the game. Although Redick finished the game with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting, he didn’t pick up one minute in the fourth quarter. A balanced scoring attack with adequate motion is what the Clippers needed, instead of milking the shot clock resulting in long shots, and 12 defensive rebounds for OKC.
With regards to the Clippers missed opportunity, Chris Paul commented, “It’s the toughest thing I’ve been through in basketball. Everything that happened at the end is on me. It’s just bad basketball. It’s bad to work that hard and just give it away at the end.”
While the Thunder ended a three-game losing streak in post-season game-fives at home, the Clippers are now 0-8 in-game fives in a series tied at 2-2. Either way it’s going to be tough for the Clippers to win two games in a row against a team that’s loaded with talent and led by two superstars, one the current league MVP and another continuously in the MVP conversation annually.
Nevertheless, the NBA seems to favor its game seven’s this year. So it’s likely the Clippers will live to fight for another two games.