This time, it was the Clippers who collapsed.
And because they failed to hold what appeared to be an insurmountable 13-point lead in the final four minutes, and because they seemingly let some hotly contested calls by the officials affect their emotions, the Clippers now could be one game away from the end of their season.
After the Clippers dropped a pulsating 105-104 decision to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night in Game 5, Coach Doc Rivers had strong words about the officiating, which he felt affected the outcome.
Chris Paul was called for a foul on a Russell Westbrook three-point attempt with 6.4 seconds left, and Westbrook made all three free throws to give the Thunder the lead.
Paul, who had five turnovers, then lost the ball to Oklahoma City's Reggie Jackson on a drive into the lane, and time expired.
Rivers, whose team trails 3-2 in the best-of-seven playoff series, with Game 6 scheduled Thursday at Staples Center, went on a rant about the officials that may get him fined.
The Clippers led, 104-97, with 45 seconds to play, but a Kevin Durant three-pointer and then a Durant layup got the Thunder to within 104-102 with 17.8 seconds to go.
Next, Paul had one of his two crucial fourth-quarter turnovers. Jackson raced down court with the ball.
As Jackson drove for a possible layup, with Matt Barnes guarding him, the ball escaped Jackson's grasp and flew out of bounds with 11.3 seconds left.
While it looked as if Jackson might have been fouled on the play, the ball also appeared to go out of bounds off his hand.
No foul was called, but the officials awarded possession to the Thunder. After a replay review, that ruling was upheld — Oklahoma City ball.
"In my opinion, let's take away replay," Rivers said. "Let's take away replay, because that's our ball and we win the game. And we got robbed because of that call. And it's clear. Everybody in the arena saw it. That's why everybody was shocked when they said [the ball was] for Oklahoma City. That was our ball. Whether it was a foul or not — it was. But they didn't call it."
Tony Brothers, chief of the three-man officiating crew, explained the decision in a statement issued after the game.
"When the ball goes out of bounds, the ball was awarded to Oklahoma City. We go review the play. We saw two replays. The two replays we saw were from the overhead camera slowing down, and the one from under the basket showing the same angle but from a different view. And from those two replays, it was inconclusive as to who the ball went out of bounds off of. When it's inconclusive, we have to go with the call that was on the floor."
The subsequent foul call on Paul was debatable, but Rivers still was more upset at the out-of-bounds ruling.
"We did a lot of stuff to lose the game ourselves," Rivers said. "But at the end of the day, we have a replay system that you're supposed to look at. And I don't want to hear that they didn't have that replay. That's a bunch of crap. That's what I heard [from the officials].
"That's a bunch of crap and ya'll all know it. We did our own stuff. We should have never lost that game. We stopped playing with three minutes left. We were milking the clock. We turned the ball over.
"We made a comedy of errors. Having said that, we still have the right to win the game if the [call] says it's our ball, and that didn't happen. And that's too bad. That's too bad for us.
"We've got two more games to play, but that could be a series-defining call," Rivers said. "And that's not right."
The Thunder blew a 22-point, first-quarter lead and a 16-point fourth-quarter lead in losing Game 4 at Staples Center.
But losing this game left Rivers upset at the officials more than anything else.
"The one thing I know about our officials is that they don't do anything on purpose," Rivers said. "They don't cheat or anything like that. They made a horrendous call. But at the end of the day, we created the situation.