Doc Rivers told the Clippers after a stirring road victory that they had not accomplished anything in their first-round series.
His team then went out and backed up its coach's words on its home court.
The Clippers could not make the plays they needed to in the final seconds of an excruciating 111-107 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 5 on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan was called for basket interference on a tip-in of a Blake Griffin miss with 4.9 seconds left that could have given the Clippers the lead.
San Antonio's Danny Green made one free throw and missed the second with 4.1 seconds left, but Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard won a scramble for the rebound and was fouled. Leonard made both free throws to give the Spurs a four-point advantage and a three-games-to-two lead in a series they could close out in Game 6 on Thursday night in San Antonio.
When Griffin missed a layup with less than a second to play, it was a fitting finish to a night in which he collected 30 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists but was clearly fatigued in the fourth quarter, making one of nine shots and missing two free throws.
"It's tough," Griffin said, "but the series isn't over and we can't think like that."
Chris Paul finished with 19 points and 10 assists and Jordan collected 21 points and 14 rebounds for the Clippers, who suffered a second consecutive agonizing finish on their home court after falling apart at the end of Game 2 last week.
"I got a team in there that played their heart out and they're frustrated a little bit," Rivers said. "They're frustrated at themselves, because in the end it's always our fault, but they're frustrated at other things too."
Rivers was alluding to several calls that he went on to detail, including basket interference on Matt Barnes, traveling on Griffin and a foul on J.J. Redick in which Rivers contended Redick didn't touch anyone.
"Guys, I don't complain much," Rivers said. "I thought we got some really tough calls."
The Clippers probably shouldn't have even been in position to win considering they made one of 14 three-pointers. The Spurs had no such difficulties, making 11 of 23 shots from long range.
The Clippers made their final push after trailing 107-100 with 2:11 left. Paul converted a three-point play after getting fouled on a driving layup and the Clippers got a defensive stop that led to a Jordan two-handed dunk off a Griffin lob.
The Clippers got the ball back after Green missed a jumper, but San Antonio's Tim Duncan blocked a shot by Griffin, who grabbed the rebound but lost the ball to Boris Diaw.
"That might have been the play of the game," San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich said of the block by Duncan, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds.
Spurs guard Tony Parker then made one of two free throws after drawing Redick's sixth foul to give San Antonio a 108-105 lead with 48.5 seconds left.
Griffin missed two free throws, but the rebound squirted to Paul before the Spurs fouled Barnes, who made two free throws to make it a one-point game. The Clippers got the ball back with 6.9 seconds left after Green missed a 26-foot jumper.
The Spurs took the Clippers out of their rhythm midway through the third quarter when they started intentionally fouling Jordan even while holding a one-point lead.
Jordan made five of 10 free throws in the quarter before being removed for Glen Davis, who provided an energetic burst. Davis made a steal, grabbed a rebound and made a turnaround jumper before Austin Rivers banked in a 19-foot jumper to tie the score at 82-82 going into the fourth quarter.
Things largely went haywire from there, the Clippers failing to finish another game that was theirs for the taking.