Matt Barnes smiled when told that Clippers Coach Doc Rivers had been fined $25,000 by the NBA on Thursday for his “public criticism” of the referees in the team's Game 5 second-round playoff loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night.
Barnes offered support for Rivers.
“It was needed,” Barnes said. “He’s done a great job all year of being a shield for this team, with all the unfortunate stuff that’s come up in the playoffs. He does a good job of being a shield and letting us just play basketball.”
Rivers, among other things, said the Clippers were “robbed” by the officials for not changing a call.
The play in question involved Reggie Jackson getting stripped of the ball by Barnes, who also appeared to foul Jackson on the play with 11.3 seconds left and the Clippers ahead 104-102.
The ball appeared to go out of bounds off Jackson’s hands, but after reviewing the play, the officials awarded the ball to the Thunder.
That led to Russell Westbrook making three free throws for the final margin after he was fouled by Chris Paul while shooting a three-pointer.
That led to Rivers’ rant after the game -- and his fine two days later.
“We always have coach’s back,” Jamal Crawford said. “He always has our back, we always have his back.”
For two days after Game 5 and at practice Wednesday, Paul was forlorn about his role in the Clippers' loss.
But during Thursday’s shoot-around at the team’s practice facility, Barnes said Paul was back to normal and ready to compete again at a high level in Game 6 of the series, which Oklahoma City leads 3-2.
Game 6 is set for Thursday night at Staples Center.
“We let him know there wasn’t any one play that he did,” Barnes said. “It was a group effort. We win as a team, we lose as a team. He took it hard, but I have no doubt he’ll be back to his self today.”
When the Clippers were flying back from Oklahoma City after the loss Tuesday night, they began to get over their disappointment while playing cards on the plane, Barnes said.
He said Rivers then came over to the group and asked them to turn off music that was playing so he could speak to the team.
"It gave me butterflies almost,” Barnes said. “I was like, ‘This guy really has our back and he really believes like we believe.’ It was stuff that we were already talking about. But he just came and reiterated it and told us, ‘It’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be easy. Enjoy it and come ready to work in Game 6.’”