GAMEDAY REPORT: CLIPPERS VS. THUNDER - GAME #5
Round 2, Game #5 | May 13, 2014
Chesapeake Energy Arena | Oklahoma City, OK
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Clippers were in command of Game 5.
They had earned a lead as large as 15 points. They were shutting down the league’s MVP. They were scoring the ball, answering any punch the Thunder threw at them.
And when Oklahoma City, in front of their raucous home crowd, wobbled them, they seemed to withstand it, scoring 11 points in a row to keep things in order.
However, the final minute of the game may live on as one of the more painful memories in team history.
Ahead by seven with 49.2 seconds left, the Clippers lost control of the game and perhaps the series. Oklahoma City rallied, scoring the last eight points, and sending the Clippers back to Los Angeles with a 105-104 loss and on the brink of elimination.
It was the second improbable finish in a row in a series between two of the three best teams in the NBA. On Sunday the Clippers came back from a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit to stun the Thunder at Staples Center. Two days later, the Clippers were the ones stunned, and left searching for answers after a controversial out-of-bounds call in the final seconds awarded the ball to Oklahoma City.
Russell Westbrook, who scored a game-high 38 points, stole an inbounds pass from Chris Paul with 11.3 seconds to go and threw a pass ahead to Reggie Jackson near the rim. Jackson lost the ball, colliding with Matt Barnes. The ball appeared to clearly touch Jackson’s right hand last, but a replay review by the officials gave the ball to the Thunder.
“We did a lot of stuff to lose the game ourselves,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “But at the end of the day we have a replay system that you’re supposed to look at.
“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 come out of a timeout and we were supposed to foul [Kevin] Durant before he took the three. So, we made a comedy of errors. Having said that, we still had the right to win the game. The ball says it was our ball and that didn’t happen. And that’s too bad for us. We’ve got two games to play, but that could be a series-defining call.”
The Clippers bench was seething and five seconds later Westbrook was fouled by Paul on a 3-pointer from the left wing and converted all three free throws, giving the Thunder a 105-104 lead. Westbrook’s free throws were last of eight straight points by the Thunder, which started with a pull-up 3-pointer by Kevin Durant, who was just 6-for-22 from the field and a driving layup after a long outlet pass on a defensive rebound.
Still, the Clippers had a chance to win.
With 6.3 seconds left, Paul drove to his right with a chance to preserve the victory, but he was stripped by Jackson and the ball trickled away as the buzzer sounded. Paul took the lion’s share of the blame afterwards, saying the loss was on him for turning the ball over twice down the stretch, fouling Westbrook and failing to get a shot off before the clock expired.
“Everything that happened there at the end is on me,” Paul said. “The turnover with 17 seconds left, assuming they were going to foul was probably the dumbest play I’ve probably ever made. And then to put it in the official’s hand and they call a foul on the three. It’s just bad basketball.”
Four players for the Clippers scored at least 15 points, led by Blake Griffin’s 24 points and 17 rebounds. Paul had 17 points and 14 assists and made a tough jumper from the elbow with 49.2 seconds to go that put the Clippers ahead by seven. But the Clippers would not score again.
Jamal Crawford scored 19 points off the bench and J.J. Redick and Barnes each had 16 points.
The Clippers practically mimicked their start in Game 1. They made six of their first 11 shots, including a pair of 3-pointers and stretched the lead to 18-10 before the game’s first timeout. That lead swelled to 30-15 thanks in large part to Griffin and Redick combining for 21 points in the first nine minutes.
They were two of the league’s top 20 first-quarter scorers in the regular season and the Clippers went to the well often on Tuesday. Redick and Griffin took 12 of the Clippers’ first 20 shots and missed just four times. It was a deadly combination.
Griffin made his first three shots from the perimeter and despite playing on a gimpy left ankle that he tweaked with 6:00 left in the first, he scored 11 of his 24 points in the opening period. It was the 24th time this season, including three times in the Playoffs, that he’s topped 10 points in the first. And Redick was 2-for-2 from 3-point range less than 48 hours after going 2-for-8 from the field in Game 4.
The Thunder scored the final four points of the first period after back-to-back fouls by the Clippers with 6.3 seconds to go, including a clear-path foul on Darren Collison after a turnover. Oklahoma City converted both sets of free throws and extended their run into the second quarter, scoring 12 of the first 16 points of the period to pull within a point of the lead.
The Thunder briefly took a 39-38 lead on a Steven Adams dunk, but the Clippers responded with seven straight points, sparked by a 3-pointer by Danny Granger on the ensuing possession. They eventually built the lead back to 10, but the Thunder closed the second quarter with seven points in a row. Redick drained a 3-pointer, though, with 0.1 left on the clock to make it 58-52 at halftime and curb Oklahoma City’s second strong close to a quarter.
They would do something even more stirring in the final minute of the fourth to sneak away with a win and leave the Clippers searching for answers.
“We’ve still got a game Thursday,” Barnes said. “We’ve got to protect home court and try to get back [here] for Game 7.”
The Clippers are 1-8 all-time in Game 5s when the series is tied at two games apiece… The Clippers were 8-for-15 from 3-point range in the first half… Griffin had his first double-double of the postseason after recording 43 in the regular season… Crawford converted his second 4-point play of the postseason and 44th of his career in the third quarter. He holds the NBA record for most 4-point plays all-time… Paul has eight double-doubles in the postseason, including six in a row…
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS HEAD COACH DOC RIVERS:
On Chris Paul’s last turnover:
“He just said he was anticipating the foul, and I’m not sure what he was doing. You know, that’s a tough turnover for Chris [Paul], obviously he’s better than that and usually doesn’t make turnovers like that. When you think about how we lost the game, you know, we turn the ball over, we foul the shooter, we’re suppose to foul Durant before he gets the three off because we have a foul to give.”
On how they will regroup after the loss:
“Well we’ve been regrouping all year, so we will be ready to play when we get to LA. This one is going to hurt, I’m sure guys are feeling bad, we took a lot of bad shots down the stretch, we tried to run clock the out instead of keep playing basketball. None of this would have happened if we had taken care of business, but we didn’t. We’ll be ready.”
On what he said to your team:
“We helped lose the game, and let’s look at us first. We made a lot of mistakes. We created the situation, we put them in this situation by the turnovers, and the bad fouls, the non-fouls, and we did a lot ourselves to not win the game. That means we can play with them, we just have to go win the next one.”
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS GUARD CHRIS PAUL:
On what it is like emotionally after the loss:
“Bad, bad basketball wise.”
On if he’s upset with the turnovers or the calls:
“You know everything happened there at the end. The turnover with 17 seconds left. The team put it in the official’s hands and called a foul on a three. It was just bad basketball.”
On if he fouled Russell Westbrook:
“I didn’t feel like I did but it doesn’t matter. You know we lost and it’s on me. We had a chance to win on the last play, we didn’t get a shot off and that’s just dumb. I’m supposed to be leader of the team.”
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS POINT GUARD DARREN COLLISON:
On what caused the Thunder to stage the late comeback:
“A lot of things happened. We had defensive errors, I turned the ball over, KD made that big three and they just seemed to make more plays than us down the stretch. It’s fine. It’s a tough loss, but we have to win one at home anyway so we’ll get back home, regroup and try to get the next one.
On being ready for Game 6:
“We’ve got a day to regroup. We’ll be feeling better by the time the next game starts. If we do the right things, we can definitely compete with the best of them. I thought we played exceptionally well the whole game besides the last minute, so there’s a lot of things we can take from this game. We just got to leave this in the past and take care of the next one.”
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS FORWARD MATT BARNES:
On how to move on past the Game 5 loss:
“We’ve got to put this behind us. Protect home court and try to get Game 7 back here.”
On going into Game 6:
“It’s a tough blow. It’s a very tough blow, but we’re still alive. We’ve got to go home and try to take care of business on Thursday and try to come back to OKC on Sunday.”
After an improbable comeback in Game 4, the Clippers head to Oklahoma City with new life.
They went from the cusp of 3-1 deficit in their series with the Thunder to being deadlocked at two games apiece.
In Tuesday night’s Game 5, the series victor may emerge. The winner of Game 5 in a best-of-seven series has a great than 77 percent chance of going on to advance. But for the majority of the Playoffs, Blake Griffin has said he throws the odds out.
“It takes four to win the series,” Griffin said before Game 2. “All those percentages, like the team that wins the second game or the first one or whatever it is, I completely block them out now until you win that fourth game.”
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
1. Small-ball repeat. The Thunder received a great deal of credit for putting away Game 3 by using a small lineup that featured two point guards (Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson) and Kevin Durant at power forward. They repeated that lineup down the stretch of Game 4, but the Clippers countered by going smaller, using Chris Paul, Darren Collison, Jamal Crawford, Danny Granger and Griffin. That group, prior to Sunday, had played just one minute together all season, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Despite scoring on 18 of the final 19 possessions of Game 4 to close out the comeback from 22 points down, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said Monday that he may use the lineup again, but only when the game calls for it.
“It's not something you can bank on, it's not something you're going to do full-time or anything like that,” Rivers said. “They've gone small at times as well and been successful. It really is going to be a game time and game situational thing for us. Having those three guards on the floor makes it very difficult to guard us, but it also puts us in a bind defensively.”
2. Another scorer. Durant and Westbrook scored 67 of the Thunder’s 99 points on Sunday. For all of the talk about defending the Thunder’s two superstars, the Clippers kept the rest of the roster at bay. Serge Ibaka, who had 20 points in Game 3, took just five shots in Game 4. Durant, of course, had a series-high 40 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, but had two key misses, a turnover and missed free throw during the Clippers’ comeback. He has, for the most part, been consistent throughout the series. However, the Thunder’s two losses came when they failed to get more than three players in double-digit scoring.
3. Playing free. The Clippers are forced to win at least one game at Chesapeake Energy Arena, which puts them in the position of underdogs, even in a season they have played mostly as the so-called hunted. Rivers thought the biggest takeaway from Game 4 was the team’s ability to play free once they got behind.
“No one worried about them anymore, they just competed,” Rivers said Monday. “They were playing completely to win the game. They stopped worrying if they were playing well or not. They just competed.”
The Clippers are 0-7 in Game 5s all-time when the series is tied at two games apiece… Paul has seven double-doubles in 11 games, including five in a row… Durant is averaging 31.1 points per game in the postseason and has scored 30 or more in eight off 11 games… The Thunder are 72-20 at home since 2012-13, but they have lost twice at home in the Playoffs, including Game 1 to the Clippers…
LAC: Hedo Turkoglu (back) is out.
OKC: None reported.
THE LAST WORD
Doc Rivers: “[Momentum] can carry over. But I don't know if it does or not. It's a good question. I think Oklahoma will be ready. I think my job is to get our team ready. Once the game starts, then the momentum from the last game is typically gone.”
PLAYOFF SERIES RECAP
Game 1: May 5, 2014 at Chesapeake Energy Arena: Clippers 122, Thunder 105
Game 2: May 7, 2014 at Chesapeake Energy Arena: Thunder 112, Clippers 101
Game 3: May 9, 2014 at Staples Center: Thunder 118, Clippers 112
Game 4: May 11, 2014 at Staples Center: Clippers 101, Thunder 99
Game 5: May 13, 2014 at Chesapeake Energy Arena
Game 6: May 15, 2014 at Staples Center
Game 7*: May 18, 2014 at Chesapeake Energy Arena