Call the Clippers confused and upset after Game 5 loss to Thunder

Call the Clippers confused and upset after Game 5 loss to Thunder
Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, right, steals the ball from Clippers point guard Chris Paul late in the fourth quarter of the Clippers' 105-104 loss in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Chris Paul grabbed his pants from his locker and shook his head.

Matt Barnes leaned his head on one hand, his elbow resting on his leg, forlornly staring at his cellphone as he sat at his locker.

Blake Griffin sat with his feet in a large tub of ice and stared straight ahead.

How did it happen? Could it really have happened?


A 13-point lead with 4 minutes 13 seconds to play. A six-point lead with 2:31 left. A two-point lead and the ball with 17.8 seconds left.

All gone after an agonizing sequence that included two turnovers and a pair of questionable calls in the final 13.9 seconds.

The Clippers' 105-104 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals will probably stick with them long after this series ends.

The Clippers seemed most upset about an out-of-bounds call with 11.3 seconds left while holding a 104-102 lead. After Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook stole a pass from Paul, Barnes stripped the ball from the Thunder's Reggie Jackson on a layup, with the ball appearing to go off Jackson.

As officials gathered to look at the replays, the Clippers pointed at scoreboard replays.

"There's no question," Barnes said. "I'm willing to put my kids on it that that ball went off him. But they watched the replay and didn't think so. It's tough when you see [Thunder players] putting their heads down and the crowd starts booing, I mean everyone saw that the ball went of Jackson. We didn't get it."

The Thunder then benefited from another controversial call when Paul was whistled for a foul on Westbrook on a three-point attempt with 6.4 seconds left.

Westbrook made all three free throws to give the Thunder a 105-104 lead.

The Clippers had one final chance but Paul lost the ball driving toward the basket with less than a second to go and the game was over.

Clippers Coach Doc Rivers could only repeatedly wave his hand in disgust at officials before walking off the court.

“We had that game won regardless of what happened,” Clippers guard Darren Collison said. “We had that game won, we just didn't finish off down the stretch.”

Barnes wasn't willing to accept that this defeat was the opposite of what happened Sunday, when the Clippers rallied from a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win.

"I think we earned that win," Barnes said of Game 4. "Tonight was a little different."

The Thunder outscored the Clippers, 17-3, after Jamal Crawford's three-pointer had given the Clippers a 101-88 lead with 4:13 remaining. There were many explanations.

“A lot of things happened,” Collison said. There were some defensive errors. We kind of turned the ball over. They made that big three [by Kevin Durant with 43.7 seconds left]. They seemed to make a little more plays than us down the stretch.”

Barnes said the officials didn't give him any explanation on the out-of-bounds play other than to say the ball was off him.

In a statement issued by crew chief Tony Brothers, the officials watched two replays and "it was inconclusive as to who the ball went out of bounds off of. When it's inconclusive, we have to go with the call that was on the floor" that the ball was off Barnes.

Would there be anything the NBA office could say to the Clippers to make up for the call?

"What are they going to say?" Barnes said. "They made a mistake, but that's still a loss for us, so it doesn't really matter."

The Clippers now return home for Game 6 on Thursday needing to win to force a Game 7 on Sunday in Oklahoma City. They will need to get their emotions in check first.

"We have to rebound," Barnes said. "We have to be resilient. There was stuff that we did down the stretch that cost us that loss too, so we have to go back and watch the film and try to be better on Thursday."