Here are five takeaways from the Oklahoma City Thunder's 105-104 come-from-behind victory over the Clippers on Tuesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference semifinals:
1. Chris Paul will want to cover his eyes when the Clippers watch film of the final 2 minutes 58 seconds of their fourth-quarter meltdown. It might have been the worst stretch of Paul’s career at any level. He missed two jump shots, committed two turnovers and fouled Russell Westbrook on a three-pointer, helping the Thunder complete its comeback from a 13-point deficit. “It was just bad basketball,” Paul said. “Probably the toughest thing I’ve been through basketball-wise.” Paul also might not like to see footage of Oklahoma City’s Reggie Jackson apparently reaching in and fouling him on the arm on the play in which Paul lost the ball in the final seconds.
2. Expect Doc Rivers to pull out his checkbook on Wednesday. The Clippers coach said officials “robbed” his team by awarding Oklahoma City the ball on the controversial out-of-bounds play with 11.3 seconds left in which the ball appeared to go off Jackson. Rivers added that the NBA didn’t need to send out a memo because he would send it for them. “They blew the call,” Rivers said. “That’s the memo.” Don’t expect the league office to accept being publicly called out like that without striking back.
3. Referee crew chief Tony Brothers has some explaining to do beyond the controversial out-of-bounds play. Brothers, the official who ruled that the ball went off Matt Barnes even though replays appeared to indicate Jackson touched it last, explained in a statement that the replays were inconclusive, forcing him to go with his original call. A bigger hullabaloo could involve Brothers being observed hugging Thunder star Kevin Durant’s mother, Wanda Pratt, before the game. Even if it was intended as a friendly, innocuous gesture, it raised the specter of favoritism toward the Thunder. Such interaction between an official and any friend or relative of a player should be strictly forbidden by the league.
4. Durant made the only shots he needed to make. The NBA’s most valuable player was a dreadful six of 22 from the field but made a three-pointer with 43.7 seconds left after the Clippers failed to foul him before he could get the shot off and added a layup with 17.8 seconds remaining that pulled the Thunder to within 104-102. Durant finished with 27 points, making all 12 of his free throws.
5. The Clippers need to come up with a new defensive plan for Russell Westbrook. The Thunder playmaker turned in one of his most brilliant performances, scoring 38 points while making 11 of 23 shots and 14 of 16 free throws. He repeatedly drove for layups and then came up with the steal of the game when he knocked the ball away from Paul with 13 seconds left to set up the controversial out-of-bounds play. That resulted in Paul fouling Westbrook on his three-point attempt with 6.4 seconds left and Westbrook making all three free throws to give Oklahoma City the lead and the improbable victory. Part of the ease with which Westbrook continually got to the rim could be attributed to Clippers center and defensive captain DeAndre Jordan playing only 19 minutes because of foul trouble.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times