HOUSTON – Frustrated by the free-throw disparity, Clippers coach Doc Rivers vehemently expressed his displeasure with the officiating following his team's 101-96 loss to the Houston Rockets Thursday night at the Toyota Center before 18,055 fans.
With his suit jacket off and his dress shirt rumpled from a night of arguing to no avail with the referees, Rivers stood with his back against a wall with a stat sheet folded in his hands and vented.
He pointed out how the Clippers shot just eight free throws to Houston's 23.
He pointed out how the Clippers shot just 18 three-pointers and how they attacked the basket all game long and scored 70 points inside and yet still were out-shot from the free-throw line.
He pointed out how the Rockets shot 41 three-pointers and still shot almost three times as many free throws as the Clippers.
"I don't say much about the officiating, but tonight was…," Rivers said, pausing. "Let me say this, they shot 41 threes, right? We shot 18. We doubled them in the amount of points in the paint and it was 24-8 in free throws. That's a joke. That is a complete joke.
"I thought our guys drove and got hit all game. Got hit all game. Lou (Williams) down the stretch got killed on a play, no call. Austin (Rivers) gets hit, no call. DJ (DeAndre Jordan) gets fouled over the back. I haven't done that all year. Our guys played their hearts out. But for them to shoot that many more free throws than us and we're the team attacking and not shooting threes, it just doesn't make basketball sense to me."
Rivers' comments may get him a call from the league office and a fine could follow.
But in taking up for his players, the Clippers (37-30) dropped from the seventh in the Western Conference to the ninth seed, one game behind seventh-seeded Utah Jazz (39-3) and eighth-seeded San Antonio Spurs (39-30).
"Our guys were frustrated. You could see it," Rivers said. "Lou was frustrated out there because he was getting held, he was getting grabbed, he was getting pushed. That's why I loved the way we played. Because no matter what, we kept playing and I thought our guys kept the focus pretty well. I told them in every huddle, 'I'll keep fighting for you (with the officials). You keep playing.' And I thought our guys did that."
The Clippers once held a 12-point lead in the third quarter, but saw that gobbled up in a 14-0 Rockets run that turned the game around.
The Clippers made one last push late in the game, but a step-back jumper by James Harden (24 points) sealed the deal for a 100-96 Rockets lead.
Afterwards, after Tobias Harris scored 29 points, Rivers 20 and Williams 14 and after holding the Rockets to 29.3% shooting from three-point range, all the Clippers could do was lament the officiating.
"It's frustrating," Williams said. "It's just a bad whistle. But, it is what it is. It happens every once in a while in the NBA."