Blaming the officiating and the rest of the world has its place and time, but it doesn’t give the full explanation of how the Los Angeles Clippers collapsed at the end of game 5 in what might be a series deciding loss. Chris Paul with baffling mistakes stands on top of the list, but Doc Rivers shoulders the blame as well.
What is the officials part in this? Their calls throughout the game went with the Thunder, although for most of the fourth quarter they were letting the game be played with the right amount of physicality. But then came that inexcusable decision to give the Thunder the ball when it clearly went out of bounds from Reggie Jackson’s hands. Then came that super soft foul call on Chris Paul that won the game for the Thunder.
Some say that complaining about the referees is futile. I disagree. Officials decide games. Decide seasons. They decide the fates and livelihood of certain players and coaches. I’m not a huge fan of everything Doc Rivers does or says, but he was right by keeping it simple in the post-game conference: They simply have to get these calls right, especially with the replays they get to watch, and then lie about their reasoning after the game. The NBA doesn’t give wins, seconds and minutes back. It simply sends out a memo about a mistake being made or not. That doesn’t help the Clippers one bit.
But there’s the way the Clippers lost the game as well. Chris Paul’s turnovers are worrying. He made a similar mistake in the loss to the Warriors in game 1 of the first round series. His decision making in crunch is usually not something anyone questions, but walking into traps set up for him by Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson isn’t something you expect from the popular pick for best point guard in the NBA.
And we can go back even further. The Clippers held a 101-88 lead with four minutes left to play. Suddenly, the ball stopped moving, which gave them so many good shots and looks throughout the entire game. The Thunder scored nine straight points before Blake Griffin made 1-of-2 from the line and then Chris Paul hit a big shot that should have ended the game. The slowed down pace and the widespread panic on the floor – that is something Doc Rivers needs to answer to as well.
The Clippers aren’t out for the count yet. They’re a very good team who have the right matchups and tools to frustrate Oklahoma City and even outplay them, home & away. But sometimes games like these decide the fate of a series. It becomes too much to overcome, especially if Rivers can’t get past the referee mistake that went against him, while Paul won’t be able to get over his own mistakes that you simply can’t expect from such a player.