It was 20 minutes to midnight when DeAndre Jordan finally emerged from what appeared to be a lengthy period of introspection in front of his locker. He pulled a cream-colored jacket over a matching sweater and cargo pants before walking toward a group of reporters gathered in a semicircle in front of a nearby whiteboard.
There was much more to ponder than a basket interference call on Jordan's tip-in Tuesday night at Staples Center that wiped out a would-be Clippers lead with 4.9 seconds left in the most important game of his basketball life.
Would this be the final home game of the season for the center and his teammates after the Clippers endured another horrific ending in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs? Might it be the last time Jordan, an unrestricted free agent this summer, dressed in the locker room he has called home for all seven of his NBA seasons?
The wait for answers won't take long.
The Clippers need to beat the Spurs in Game 6 on Thursday night at the AT&T Center to extend a season that otherwise would end far short of expectations and prompt questions about Jordan's future, not to mention a franchise that has stalled after regular-season success.
"Our guys have been very resilient all year," Coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday. "And I would be very surprised if we weren't ready to play a great Game 6."
A Clippers loss would sustain a run of playoff failures that dates to Jordan's first season alongside star teammates Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. The Clippers were clearly outclassed by San Antonio in a 2012 Western Conference semifinal series before squandering a 2-0 lead in a first-round series against Memphis in 2013 and collapsing in the final minute of Game 5 against Oklahoma City last season in a conference semifinal series.
They were widely counted out after dropping Games 2 and 3 in this series against the Spurs before rallying to win Game 4 in San Antonio. Then came the latest twist in a series largely devoid of momentum but rife with drama.
The NBA fined Rivers $25,000 on Wednesday after Rivers specified several calls he disagreed with in Game 5 that he described as "brutal."
"Great call," Rivers said of the fine. "I just felt like it needed to be said."
The league's day-after referee report actually stated that two of the three calls it missed in the game's final two minutes — incorrect noncalls on fouls committed by Paul and Matt Barnes — should have gone against the Clippers, but that did nothing to lessen Rivers' anger about what he perceived as other bad calls.
Among the calls Rivers questioned were basket interference on Barnes, traveling on Griffin and a foul on J.J. Redick for apparently just standing there. There was also a fourth-quarter technical foul on Paul that netted the Spurs a point when it looked as if Paul did nothing more than throw the ball to a referee after a Spurs basket to accelerate the start of a Clippers' possession.
"I thought if anything, it was a delay of game," Paul said afterward, referring to a violation that would have resulted in merely a warning on the first offense. "In the other 82 games it would have been a delay of game, but tonight they didn't call it."
Jordan blamed himself for the late basket interference call on a Griffin shot that may have been good on its own, calling it "a dumb play."
"I was under the basket," Jordan said, "so I couldn't really" tell whether the ball was going in.
There is no such uncertainty when it comes to the Clippers' fate Thursday. Win, and Jordan comes home with his team for Game 7 at Staples Center. Lose, and Jordan has extra time to decide where he wants to dress in next season.
Times staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.