Doc Rivers was livid, furious over a botched call that contributed to the Los Angeles Clippers’ 105-104 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, whom they now trail 3-2 in their playoff series.
He might also have been steamed over his team’s inability to hold onto a seven-point lead in the final 49.2 seconds, but his anger crystallized around replay and his belief that “we were robbed.” Yahoo’s Marc J. Spears tells what happened:
The call in question came with 11.3 seconds left and the Clippers leading 104-102. Chris Paul had braced for a foul only to have Russell Westbrook force the ball from his hands. Thunder guard Reggie Jackson drove to the rim and was hit on the hand by Matt Barnes, jarring the ball out of bounds. The officials did not call a foul on Barnes, but said the Clippers retained possession. They stopped play to look at TV replays to determine who touched the ball last.
The replays appeared to indicate Jackson had last touched the ball. The officials said otherwise, giving Oklahoma City possession. After Paul was called for a foul on a 3-point attempt by Westbrook and Westbrook made all three of his free throws, the Thunder suddenly had the lead – improbable given that they had trailed by 13 just four minutes earlier.
Officials went to the monitor, since the game was in the final two minutes and replay was available.
After the game, referee Tony Brothers released an explanatory statement:
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 showing 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.
CBS Sports’ Zach Harper has a full interpretation of what happened, not that it was going to make Rivers any happier. Rule 8, Section IIc of the rulebook says:
If a player has his hand in contact with the ball and an opponent hits the hand causing the ball to go out-of-bounds, the team whose player had his hand on the ball will retain possession.
It was enough to make Rivers, whose team has been dealing with anger and emotions thanks to the Donald Sterling mess, boil over. He took up the issue with Thunder owner Clay Bennett in a hallway, yelling at him, “Wow! Why can’t we get the right replay?”
“In my opinion, let’s take away replay,” Rivers told reporters (via the Los Angeles Times). “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.”
Rivers, who can expect to write a check for his comments, wasn’t finished, even if he was trying to take some of the heat off his team for its collapse.
“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 and that’s not right.”
Maybe the Clippers’ Twitter feed said it best:
SMH— Los Angeles Clippers (@LAClippers) May 14, 2014
Or maybe Bill Plaschke of the LA Times is right and there’s a Clippers Curse, which may or may not have something to do with the Sterlings.
It was wrong. It was unfair. It was a clear dereliction of duty by officials who, if they saw the same replay viewed by the rest of the sports world, clearly knew they had blown it.
Rivers was screaming. The Clippers were cussing. The crowd was roaring. The Thunder was hugging. It was crazy. It was chaos. It was that stupid, stupid curse.
Whatever, Doc Rivers was furious.