Clippers still motivated by playoffs collapse against Thunder

Clippers still motivated by playoffs collapse against Thunder
Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook celebrates in front of Clippers Blake Griffin and Chris Paul late in Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference playoffs on May 13. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

It's the game that will never go away, not as long as Blake Griffin needs motivation or a reminder of what could have been.

As painful as it is to relive, the Clippers forward has watched Game 5 of his team's playoff collapse against the Oklahoma City Thunder more than any other game in the nine months since it unfolded here like a bad dream.

"That feeling of the win being so close and slipping away," Griffin said Friday, "is probably the worst feeling in basketball."

The Clippers were ahead by 13 points with four minutes to play. They were still up by seven points with 49.2 seconds to go. A victory would have given them a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series, with a potential closeout Game 6 at Staples Center two days later.


It was a closeout game, all right. Only it was the Clippers who would be finished after an epic collapse at the end of Game 5.

The stunning sequence included two turnovers by Clippers point guard Chris Paul, one on a bizarre play in which he jumped into the air in the backcourt in an attempt to draw a shooting foul; a controversial out-of-bounds call that went against the Clippers' Matt Barnes; and a defensive blunder in which Paul fouled Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook on a three-point shot.

The Clippers might shudder a bit when they take the court inside Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday for the first time since Westbrook made all three of those free throws to provide the Thunder's final points in a 105-104 victory.

Paul said this summer he didn't want to forget how much the loss hurt so that he might not have to experience that feeling again. But asked Friday whether he still thought about the game, Paul indicated he had moved on.

"You know how long ago that was?" he said. "Go in there, yeah, ooh."

The Clippers players weren't the only ones with regrets. Clippers Coach Doc Rivers told The Times in September that his staff also bungled a few things.

Coaches had instructed the Clippers to foul Thunder star Kevin Durant before he could shoot, but they didn't and he made a three-pointer that sparked the comeback.

"How did that happen?" Rivers wondered aloud this fall. "What didn't we say in the timeout that they didn't hear us?"

On Friday, Rivers said he was "really" looking forward to the Clippers' return but acknowledged he wasn't sure how his players would react. Griffin seemed as if he was also eager to go back.

"I don't dread playing any game, but that game is still on my mind," said Griffin, who last watched it in January on his iPad. "It's a good reminder."

Paul fined

Paul was fined $25,000 on Saturday for his comments critical of Lauren Holtkamp after the rookie referee called a technical foul on Paul during the Clippers' loss to Cleveland on Thursday.

The technical came after the Clippers tried to quickly inbound the ball following a Cavaliers free throw.

"We're trying to get the ball out fast every time down the court and when we did that she said, 'Uh-uh,' and I said, 'Why uh-uh?' and she gave me a tech and that's ridiculous," Paul said Thursday. "If that's the case, then this might not be for her."

Paul did not back down from his comments the next day, saying they were "about a bad call."

Clippers today


When: 10 a.m. PST.

Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena.

On the air: TV: Channel 7; Radio: 980, 1330.

Records: Clippers 33-18; Thunder 25-25.

Record vs. Thunder: 1-0.

Update: Oklahoma City is only 14-9 since Kevin Durant returned from a monthlong absence to start the season, not exhibiting the dominance that was widely expected. The Thunder is five games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and must face the Clippers without forward Kendrick Perkins, who was suspended for one game Saturday after he made head to head contact with New Orleans guard Tyreke Evans on Friday during the Pelicans' victory over Oklahoma City. Clippers shooting guard J.J. Redick (back spasms) is considered doubtful to play.

Twitter: @latbbolch