Doc Rivers’ voice quivered as he stood in a hallway inside the Pepsi Center, his frustration palpable as he spoke with reporters.
The discussion centered on two talking points that left the Clippers coach livid after his team’s 109-106 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday night: the lackadaisical play of his second unit and the overzealousness of the referees.
The Clippers were called for seven technical fouls, including five during the fourth quarter and three on the same sequence after center DeAndre Jordan told officials that Kenneth Faried knocked him in the head underneath the basket.
“I just keep saying, ‘Coaches and players get technicals for losing their composure,’” Rivers said afterward. “I don’t know if we lost our composure today. I’m pretty sure we didn’t.”
The Clippers had a chance to send the game into overtime on their final possession but couldn’t get there after Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick and Chris Paul missed three-pointers. Paul’s three-pointer was ruled to have come after the final buzzer, but it probably would have been reviewed by officials had it gone in.
Rivers emphatically voiced his displeasure to the officials before he left the court. He was hardly the only one irritated.
“It’s crazy,” said Paul, who finished with 17 points, 15 assists and one technical foul in the second quarter for complaining. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Never. As someone who has been in this league for awhile, you’re supposed to be able to react, then calm down.”
Paul was referring to the play midway through the fourth quarter in which Jordan voiced his displeasure with getting hit by Faried, who was called for a flagrant 1 foul.
“My exact words were, ‘Come on, he hit me in the head,’” Jordan said, “and I got a technical foul.”
Rivers then groused about the technical and received one of his own before Clippers reserve Hedo Turkoglu picked up a third technical from the bench.
“Turk got a tech for saying, ‘That’s not a foul,’” Clippers forward Matt Barnes said. “I mean, this is just getting out of control, man. They’re just whistle-happy.”
Barnes also received a technical foul early in the fourth for complaining about a call in which Jordan Farmar was assessed a shooting foul for trying to break up a lob to Denver’s Alonzo Gee.
“I got a tech for saying, ‘He’s not shooting the ball,’” Barnes said.
The technical difficulties weren’t the Clippers’ only problems. Crawford scored 20 points, but the four other reserves who played combined for only two points. Their defense was even worse, allowing Denver’s Nate Robinson to make three consecutive uncontested three-pointers in the second quarter to help the Nuggets open an 18-point lead.
“It was awful,” said Rivers, who acknowledged possibly shaking up his second-unit rotation. “I mean, first half, honest to God, I was looking for [an All-Star] a write-in ballot for Nate. My God. That was unbelievable.”
The Clippers tied the score after a 16-0 run to start the third quarter, but their reserves lost a three-point lead by allowing the Nuggets to score the first nine points of the fourth quarter.
“It’s hard when you put yourself in that hole but you fight so hard and expend so much energy to get out of it and lose it in the end,” said Clippers forward Blake Griffin, who had 32 points and 12 rebounds.
The Clippers (18-8) have quietly lost three of their last five games, though they didn’t exactly hush themselves after their latest defeat.
“I don’t think what I did was enough to get a technical,” Jordan said, “but at the end of the day it was a tech and I can’t do that.”