How it all went wrong for the Clippers

How it all went wrong for the Clippers
Clippers point guard Chris Paul, left, draws a foul call on a three-point attempt by Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook during the closing seconds of the Clippers' 105-104 road loss in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals Tuesday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The most infuriating part of the WORST COLLAPSE IN NBA PLAYOFFS HISTORY is that a handful of things actually went the Clippers' way Tuesday when they lost a 13-point lead over the final 4 minutes 13 seconds.

Blake Griffin grabbed a pair of defensive rebounds. Glen Davis snagged an offensive rebound with 1:08 left to give the Clippers the ball with a five-point lead. Chris Paul, who on this night will be remembered as Mr. Liable, made that possession worthwhile when he buried a mid-range jumper to give the Clippers a seven-point lead with 49.2 seconds left.


That's when all death knell broke loose, resulting in the Clippers' 105-104 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals.

Here's a cover-your-eyes look at the seven bad/unlucky plays that gave the Clippers a 3-2 deficit in the series and could essentially serve as a wrap on the best/most heartbreaking season in franchise history:

1. Oklahoma City inbounds the ball in the frontcourt with 49.2 seconds to go after calling timeout. The Thunder passes the ball to Kevin Durant, forcing the Clippers to switch defenders on the NBA's most valuable player after Serge Ibaka sets a screen on Matt Barnes.

Durant, who has made only four of 20 shots to this point, buries the shot to pull the Thunder to within 104-100 with 43.7 seconds left. No biggie, right?

2. The Clippers, obviously looking to run time off the clock, catch a break when the slow-footed Kendrick Perkins steps out on the perimeter to defend the fleet-footed Jamal Crawford after Reggie Jackson is caught out of position because he unsuccessfully tried to trap Paul. Predictably, Crawford blows past Perkins for a scoop layup. It rolls off the rim. Russell Westbrook grabs the rebound with 21.5 seconds left. The Clippers still lead by four points. What could possibly go wrong?

3. Westbrook fires an outlet pass to a sprinting Durant, who outmaneuvers Paul for a layup. The play requires only 3.7 seconds, but the Clippers have a two-point lead and the ball with 17.8 seconds to go. Bring on San Antonio in the conference finals!

4. The Clippers inbound the ball to the sure-handed Paul, who had only one turnover in his team's previous two games. Paul takes a couple of dribbles in the backcourt before inexplicably jumping into the air as Westbrook rushes over to defend him near the sideline.

Paul's desperation pass is deflected toward the Thunder's Jackson, who scoops up the ball and streaks toward the basket. Barnes reaches in and strips the ball from Jackson, causing it to fly out of bounds. No foul is called, but official Tony Brothers, who was nice enough to hug Durant's mother near her courtside seat before the game, indicates that it's Oklahoma City ball. Uh-oh.

5. Cue the replays. All three officials gather around the television monitor near half-court as players from both teams and fans watch the same footage on the overhead video scoreboard, which shows that the ball went off Jackson's right hand. Clippers ball! They could close this thing out in Game 6 on Thursday!

Well, maybe not. As Clippers players and coaches point to the scoreboard overhead, the officials rule that it's Thunder ball with 11.3 seconds to go, with crew chief Brothers later explaining that the reviews were inconclusive. It still seems like overtime is the worst-case scenario for the Clippers.

6. Jackson inbounds to Westbrook, who does his thing, dribbling out to the perimeter before jacking up a three-pointer with 6.4 seconds left. Haha! And Clippers fans were worried.

Wait, what? A whistle blows and Paul is called for a foul on Westbrook. A series of photos later reveal that Paul's left hand was indeed flush against Westbrook's right forearm. Whoops.

As Durant sits on the court facing the opposite basket, too jittery to watch, Westbrook sinks the three free throws that give the Thunder a 105-104 lead. Good thing the Clippers have one of the game's top closers in Paul.

7. Timeout Clippers. Surely Coach Doc Rivers, who crafted the beautiful Paul-to-J.J. Redick three-pointer that ended the first half, will come up with something similarly spectacular to finish the game.


Paul takes the inbounds pass and dribbles toward the basket, passing up a mid-range jumper as Ibaka closes in to pick him up. Jackson reaches in and hacks Paul on the right arm, forcing him to lose the ball with 0.9 seconds left. No foul is called.

Ibaka grabs the loose ball. Game over. Pandemonium inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.

See you Thursday for Game 6. Game 7? Depends on whether the Clippers can extricate themselves from the sorrow of such a sad ending.