The Los Angeles Clippers played a solid game all night long, and finally got a clunker from one of the Oklahoma City Thunder's two stars. The Clips had a larger lead than 104-97 not too long before, but that was the score after Chris Paul finally connected on his bread and butter midrange jumper with 49 seconds left.
And poof, it was gone.
The Clippers got all they needed to win this game, from a (finally) dominant rebounding game from Blake Griffin, mostly solid quarterbacking from Paul, and a slew of contributions from role players across the board. But they stumbled at the finish line, and had a handful of questionable calls going against them, resulting in a heartbreaker that made the Thunder's collapse in L.A. during game 4 look conservative. Your final score, Oklahoma City 105. Los Angeles 104.
It's hard for me to talk about this game with composure right now, but despite shooting under 45% for the night, the Clippers were executing a good deal of the night, and finally got a few of their shooters going. J.J. Redick went 6-12 for 16 points, Matt Barnes went 4-5 from downtown, and Jamal Crawford hit some huge buckets in the second half after a bad first half. Griffin came out aggressive, and a stat that had shown that Griffin hadn't double-doubled all post-season was broken tonight as he had a determined 17 rebounds that the Clippers desperately needed with DeAndre Jordan in foul trouble all night. Danny Granger hit a few shots too and Glen Davis had some big hustle boards.
But it was all for naught, as things came unglued down the stretch. While those calls were fairly controversial and will be the talk of the town for the next couple of nights, Kevin Durant hit an incredible shot to cut the lead to 104-100, and Paul, as he very often has done in the past, got in mid-air before crossing the halfcourt line expecting a foul. I don't know if he was waiting for contact so he could shoot (a call he's time and time again never gotten) or was just figuring the foul was there, but that mistake was most costly on the Clippers end. I didn't see if Paul got contact there, but that was just a bad bad decision.
What happened afterwards? Reggie Jackson seemingly turned the ball right back over, but the refs seemingly gave OKC the benefit of the doubt since Barnes hit him on the wrist as he turned it over. That would be fine and dandy, if over and over again since review came into existence, the refs hadn't consistently called that play based on who touched the ball last rather than doing their usual makeup calls that they'd do during the rest of the game. Heck, the Clippers just suffered from one of these calls in game 1 against the Warriors, when Draymond Green reached in but Paul knocked the ball out of bounds. Then that Russell Westbrook foul. Well, let me just tell you, I don't agree with that foul. Paul closed the game on the other end without even getting a shot off.
Westbrook was absolutely dominant all game long and got to the rim at will. He had taken some signature bad Westbrook shots, but mixed it in with a relentless attack and got by whoever was guarding him, including Paul. Westbrook finished with 38 points, 6 assists, and 5 boards. Durant shot 6-22 for 27 and 10. And that's it. No other player from OKC finished in double figures.
This is going to sting. Let's hope the Clippers use it as motivation to come strong against the Thunder in game 6 in what is now, a must-win.
For the Thunder perspective, check out Welcome to Loud City.