Come tonight’s clash against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Los Angeles Clippers will be desperation mode as they know how anything other than a win will mean the end of their Championship quest. But it could have been so much different.
A series of debatable calls, and some luck, for the home team means that they are down, rather than up, 3-2 in the series heading back to the Staples Center for tonight’s win-or-go-home meeting.
The most questionable call came with just over 10 seconds left in the game. Reggie Jackson was seemingly hacked by Matt Barnes whilst driving to the basket but no foul was called, though there was uncertainty as to who touched the ball last before it rolled out of bounds. Since it was within the last two minutes, the officials could review the play and decide who receives possession.
Replays showed that the ball had come off Jackson last although it was due to Barnes fouling him in the process. Nevertheless, as the rules states, a foul cannot be called in retrospect; therefore it should have been L.A.’s ball. However the officials, perhaps as a means to make up for missing the foul call, controversially awarded the ball to OKC despite the evidence.
On the ensuing play, there was yet more controversy as Chris Paul was deemed to have fouled Russell Westbrook while he attempted a three pointer. That meant he had three free-throws and he would go on to nail them to give Oklahoma City the lead and eventually the win. Much to Doc Rivers’ disgust.
“We got robbed,” he claimed during the post-game press conference. “It’s clear. Everyone in the arena saw it. That’s why everyone was shocked when they said Oklahoma City. That was our ball.
“That could be a series defining call and that’s not right.”
Then again, it should have never got to that point.
L.A. threw away a 13 point lead with four minutes remaining in the game and have themselves to blame as much as anyone. Rivers pointed out that they stopped playing and made a slew of errors to allow OKC back into the game.
Most notably Chris Paul’s turnover which led to the controversial call as he tried to con his way to the free-throw line by flailing his arms in the air as if to suggest he was attempting a shot from his own three point line. Instead Westbrook cleanly stripped him of the ball and Jackson smartly attacked Barnes.
As for the foul call which sent Westbrook to the line, it may be harsh but Paul should have known better than to give the referees the chance to make that foul call. Plus, he was unable to make up for it on the last play of the game as he uncharacteristically lost a handle of the ball while driving to the hoop.
Nevertheless, he and the rest of the Los Angeles Clippers have to quickly recover for the must-win Game six on their homecourt.
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