Lou Williams sat in the locker room, his frustrations clear as he described the defining play that eventually sent the Clippers to an agonizing 90-85 loss to the Miami Heat on Saturday night.
Both Williams and Clippers coach Doc Rivers directed their ire at the officiating during and after the game, both wondering why the calls went against them in a tense game at American Airlines Arena.
“We didn’t play a great game, but we gave ourselves an opportunity to win,” Williams said. “So we do feel like that one got stolen from us.”
The play that burned in Williams’ mind occurred with 28.5 seconds left and the Clippers with the ball and down 86-85.
DeAndre Jordan set a screen for Williams, who was able to get free from his defender, Josh Richardson.
Williams drilled a three-pointer for what appeared to be a two-point lead for the Clippers.
But the official ruled that Williams pushed Richardson down for an offensive foul.
The basket was not allowed.
“Yeah, we should go up two,” Williams said. “The referee was for sure that I pushed him. We looked at the replay. He tripped on his on man’s foot. I’ve got both of my hands down. And then when that happens, they kind of talk to you in any kind of way. That’s how I feel about that.”
Williams struggled with his shot, missing 12 of his 16 shots, finishing with just 13 points. He had been issued a technical foul in the third quarter, so, yes, Williams already was not happy.
But he was sure that Richardson had tripped over the foot of teammate Bam Adebayo on the play and that Williams was not at fault.
“We’re down one with 40-some seconds to go, we draw up a play and they [the officials] screw it up,” Williams said. “A guy falls on his own man. We hit a three-pointer and they take it away on an offensive foul.”
Even before that play, even before Rivers was called for a technical foul with 4.4 seconds left and the Clippers going down to defeat, he was upset at another non-call with less than a minute to play.
During a scramble for a loose ball, Miami’s Kelly Olynyk tipped the ball down court. The Clippers got the ball and rushed it up court as the 24-second clock was winding down.
Rookie Jawun Evans, in his haste, tried to throw the ball to Williams, but threw it out of bounds.
The officials reviewed the play and gave the ball to the Heat with 59.4 seconds left and the Clippers still down by one.
“I thought the deflection play was a missed call,” Rivers said. “They controlled the ball by throwing it, so it should have been a new 24 [second clock]. They did it twice. Kelly Olynyk threw the ball, so going by the rule, if a guy tries to save the ball and threw it down to the other end, it’s a new 24.
“We wouldn’t have been rushing the ball down the other end of the floor, ‘cause we would have had the whole 24-second clock. I thought that was just a missed call. I thought that hurt us. I thought that was a big call in the game.”
The Clippers were in position to scratch out a win behind the fourth-quarter play by Milos Teodosic, who had missed the Washington game Friday night because of rest.
He had 10 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter.
“I don’t know if we would have won the game or not, but I thought we got missed calls down the stretch and I thought that hurt us,” Rivers said. “Having said that, I just love our spirit. There are so many reasons not to hang in there, not to play and our guys just keep doing it.”