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Doc Rivers, Blake Griffin don't blame Chris Paul for Game 5 disaster

#Clippers Coach Doc Rivers and Blake Griffin say Game 5 debacle not Chris Paul's fault via @latimessports
Clippers need victory Thursday to force Game 7 on Sunday.

The Clippers returned to practice Wednesday in preparation for Thursday's Game 6 in their playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Game 5 ended spectacularly badly for the Clippers, who gave up a seven-point lead in the final 49.2 seconds.

"I never would have imagined losing that game last night," said Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin before practice.

"I was very upset last night and rightly so," said Coach Doc Rivers. "On the plane we had a little impromptu meeting. I told them, 'Listen, it doesn't matter. It's 3-2. We've got to go win at home and then go win on the road.'"

Rivers was outraged after the loss Tuesday, denouncing the officiating after a questionable out-of-bounds play with 11.3 seconds left that  appeared to show the ball went off of the Thunder's Reggie Jackson.

"We were robbed," said Rivers, pounding the table in frustration in his postgame news conference.

Rivers didn't back down Wednesday from his statements, although he pointed out his anger wasn't directed at a specific referee.

"I didn't mean that personally, to any official. If it looked like that, I didn't mean that," he said of officiating crew Tony Brothers, Bennett Salvatore and Tom Washington. "I was more frustrated with the call."

After the loss, Chris Paul took the blame after two key turnovers in the final minute and a foul on a Russell Westbrook three-point attempt that ultimately led to the game-winning points for the Thunder.

"I did think that was a foul last night," said Rivers of the Westbrook attempt.  "Chris kind of jumped up and turned his body to avoid it."

Paul was scrutinized for a similar play in Game 3 in the team's first-round victory over the Golden State Warriors, visibly putting his hand on Stephen Curry's hip.  In that case, the referees didn't blow the whistle.

"Curry just always jumps into you, I think the officials knew that one," said Rivers. "You've got to be close. You've got to contest. Chris did his job and last night he took half a step too close."

Paul also turned the ball over in the backcourt with 13.9 seconds left, trying to force a three-point attempt while taking an intentional foul from Westbrook.

"Doc told me I got in my own way, thinking the game too much," said Paul. "Usually they don't even give me that call anyway, probably something I never do again."

Paul also said he didn't recall if he was fouled by Jackson on the final drive of the game that resulted in a turnover.  No call was made.

After Paul took the blame for his team's defeat, teammates Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford privately went to his defense.

"Jamal and I actually stopped to talk to Chris on the bus before we got on the plane. He was visibly upset. I told him that game is not on one guy. It's not on him," said Griffin. "We made plenty of mistakes down the stretch. We made plenty of mistakes throughout the game that could have ultimately changed the outcome.

"I understand what he's saying, but it's not," he continued. "We still have two games left to play."

The Clippers need a victory Thursday to force a Game 7 on Sunday afternoon.

Rivers also stood up for his All-Star point guard.

"I know that CP has taken a lot on his shoulders, but it wasn't just CP in this. It was our whole team.  We all made mistakes. Our transition [defense] broke down," said Rivers.  "He takes everything personally and on his shoulders. ... That's why he gets paid the big bucks.  That's why he's the leader of our basketball team."

Paul tried to put the loss into perspective.

"I woke up this morning with a beautiful wife and two beautiful kids," he said. "At the end of the day, it is basketball but there's a lot of guys whose livelihood depends on this, so I need to do my part." 

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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