For CP3, critical errors worse than call

By Jeff Caplan,

VIDEO: The Thunder shock the Clippers in Game 5

OKLAHOMA CITY — Game 5 will be remembered for the call, the officials’ curious explanation following the replay review and Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers‘ scorching rant of the entire surreal sequence. It will all be replayed and dissected on a continuous loop.

For Chris Paul, the call that didn’t go the Clippers’ way with 11.3 seconds left to another unfathomable finish in this heart-stopping Western Conference semifinal series, isn’t what will eat at him for hours on end; isn’t what left him in a near-catatonic state in the postgame interview room.

Despite early foul trouble in a game in which the whistles blew early and often, Paul engineered a spectacular game for 47 minutes before he so unexpectedly came unglued in the final 49 seconds. Two turnovers, about what he’s averaged in each game in these playoffs, and inexplicably making contact with Russell Westbrook‘s shooting arm from behind the arc with 6.4 seconds left played a leading role in the Clippers’ collapse, a seven-point lead, and a series lead, dashed in 49.2 seconds.

Forty-nine seconds for a chance to close this out at home Thursday night. Forty-nine seconds for Paul, the nine-year pro and seven-time All-Star, to creep ever closer to his first conference final, and the first, too, for this long-beleaguered, but now proudly resilient franchise of which CP3 has willingly become the undeniable face.

“Toughest thing I’ve been through basketball-wise,” Paul said softly, his body slouched, motionless, his eyes unblinking. “Everything that happened during the end, a turnover with 17 seconds left, assuming that they would foul — dumbest play probably that I’ve ever made. And then hitting Russell’s hand and calling a foul on a 3. Just bad basketball.”

VIDEO: Chris Paul talks after the Clippers’ Game 5 defeat

With 4:13 to go, the Clippers could feel the momentum surging in their favor. Jamal Crawford splashed a 3 and the lead they held practically throughout swelled to 101-88 as the Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd groaned. League MVP Kevin Durant was having a miserable night, his worst postseason shooting performance of his career, 3-for-17, and he hadn’t even taken a shot in the fourth quarter.

Not until he popped a 3 with 3:23 to go: 101-93.

Paul would miss a couple of jumpers, and Crawford badly missed a 3. Reggie Jackson‘s layup made it 101-97 with 1:25 to go, but Paul calmly tip-toed into shooting position and drained a 17-footer with 68 seconds left: 104-97.

Durant hit another high-arching 3 with 43 seconds left to make it a four-point game. Crawford missed a scoop at the rim and Westbrook hustled the rebound out to Durant, who raced to the rim and scored with 17.8 seconds left: 104-102.

Still, the Clippers were in control, the shot clock turned off.

Then all hell broke loose.

Paul took the inbounds pass after the Durant bucket up the right sideline. Westbrook pressured him. Paul later said he expected Westbrook to foul him. Instead the Thunder point guard swiped the ball away with a quick jab and it bounced out to Jackson near midcourt. Jackson bolted into the lane, made contact with Matt Barnes and he and the ball went flying out of bounds under the basket. No foul was called. Referee Tony Brothers, positioned on the baseline, signaled Thunder ball.

As all close out-of-bounds plays do, this one went to video replay. Rivers, certain the call would be overturned, picked up his whiteboard to draw up a play. The refs watched the video screen, huddled, conferred and, finally, a verdict: Call stands, Thunder ball.

The Clippers went ballistic.

“I was shocked,” Paul said.

“It was our ball; everybody knows it was our ball,” Rivers, red-faced and hot during his postgame interview, said. “I think the bottom line is they thought it was a foul and they made up for it. In my opinion, let’s take replay away. Let’s take away the replay system because that’s our ball.”

It was the Thunder’s ball. Paul said Brothers told him the replay the referees observed showed it off the Clippers. Later in a statement issued by Brothers, the crew chief, he said the officials viewed two camera angles and neither was convincing enough to reverse the call in the Clippers’ favor: “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.”

Said Rivers: “We made our own mistakes, we turned the ball over, we fouled the 3-point shot, we did a lot of stuff to lose the game ourselves. 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.”

The Thunder were awarded the ball under their basket. Westbrook dribbled out top, sized up Paul and launched himself vertically, releasing a 3-point shot for the lead. Paul appeared to knock Westbrook’s arm and the trajectory of his shot suggested the same. The whistle blew. Foul. Three free throws.

“I didn’t feel like I did [foul], but it doesn’t matter,” Paul said.

With 6.4 seconds showing on the clock, Westbrook, dynamite throughout the game with 38 points and six assists, and the only reason OKC had a chance at all, made all three free throws to put OKC ahead 105-104.

After a timeout to move the ball into the frontcourt, Barnes inbounded to Paul, guarded by Thabo Sefolosha. A screen set Paul free around the right side as he darted toward the lane with designs of feeding a rolling Blake Griffin. But the Thunder’s Jackson dropped off Crawford, got a hand close enough to the ball to avoid a foul while disrupting Paul’s dribble. Paul lost it in the lane and time expired.

Stunned and angry, the Clippers were beside themselves as the buzzer punctuated the finality of an incredible Game 5 that moved the Thunder win from a third West finals appearances in four seasons.

“We lost and it’s on me,” Paul said. “We had a chance to win and the last play, we didn’t get a shot off and that’s just dumb. I’m supposed to be the leader of the team.

“It’s just bad, real bad.”

Just as the Thunder believed they had Game 4 won before blowing a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Clippers, who led 30-15 early, had this one stuffed in their back pocket. They were the better team for 47 minutes.

“They’re supposed to win that game,” Thunder center Kendrick Perkins said. “Up 13 with four minutes to go, they’re supposed to win that game.”

And that’s all Paul will think about as he searches for a way to pull himself from Tuesday night’s wreckage.

“I don’t know, you just do,” Paul said of forgetting Game 5. “It’s real bad. Get ready for Game 6.”


  1. Friendly Bounce says:

    I don’t get that the rules states that the refs may not review the foul but only who touched the ball last. What is the sense in that?
    The goal of the replay should be to get the call right. If they see a foul on the replay, why can’t they call it?
    I’ve searched the web for an explanation for that and can’t find it. I can think of no reason why they limit the rule like that.
    Does anybody know why that is?

  2. Mr. obvious says:

    99% of the post I’ve seen on here are just stupid. games aren’t decided by one or two plays. they were up double digits with four minutes left and they let okc back into the game and put themselves in a position where the game had to be decided by the refs. it doesn’t matter who filed who because honestly the clippers should have never gotten into that position. They were up 13 points! They made poor decisions down the stretch and they let the refs decide the game…and they lost because of it.

  3. Coulda Woulda Shoulda says:

    What were U thinking Chris trying to shoot a shot behind half court with under a min to play more or less? Oh Me Oh My!!! What a bad play CP3. It hurt to see bad plays after plays. I’d say around the 2 minute mark is when the Clips got to careless and made to many mental mistakes. It hurt to watch. Like Crawford shooting a 3 with a 3 point lead less than one min in the game. What should have happened they should have fed BG to pound it in for a 2 pts or draw a foul for 2 foul shots. Instead they fell in love with the three. I yelled at the tv whyyyyy!!!! CP3 of all people touched Westbrook on his 3 pt shot was another one. You could see the shot was off by Westbrook and even fans knew doooon’t toooooouch the 3pt shooter. Clips need to stop complaining and play ball, forget the refs make your case but run back to defense at the same time instead of standing with a look of disbelief.

  4. Lee says:

    Doc is angry…. so he is angry that:
    1. the ref make the wrong call when they blew the whistle;
    2. the ref make it right (give the ball to OKC) after they review the replay.

    wow. So they want to win the game no matter what, even on ref making the wrong call and they win, they are OK.

    Also, Paul got away on his foul on Curry 3 pts attempt, and he tried it again on Russ and failed, and they are complaining…. this cry baby team is just terrible to watch.

  5. Jay says:

    The CLIPPERS have endured, they have faced adversary beyond the imagination, the made mistakes late yes but they had enough to win, they were robbed of a chance at a close out. The league needs to take a look at this replay malarky and the over fouling in the NBA has ruined the game….

  6. AndrewZ says:

    westbrook too fast for paul

    • Another Heat Fan says:

      OKC played terribly. For them to win that game is beyond my understanding…
      Really that foul call on the 3, and then that no-call on the last turnover…CP3 was hit on his arm, the ball wasn’t poked out.
      How can you call that foul on westbrook’s 3 but not call that reach in? that wasn’t a good defensive stop by evans that was a bad play which should have resulted in 2 freethrows for paul. I only wish paul would have sold it more maybe it would have been called. You can’t slap someone’s arm to get the ball and call that a clean stop.

  7. The mistakes by CP3 and the questionable call at the end are not the main reasons the Clips lost this game. I do not understand why teams with a lead in the final 4 minutes feel the best strategy is to wait for the shot clock to wind down just to get a bad shot. Doc should stop complaining about the call (which was clearly a foul and refs all the time award the ball out of bounds instead of 2 FTs when they aren’t sure if Barnes got the ball or the arm) and get his team to end the game with good offensive possessions.

    The difference between running a good play (aka a regular play that would be run at any point during the game) that results in a decent shot at any point during the shot clock versus holding onto the ball until the clock ticks below 10 and then a frantic attempt to get a shot, any shot, up before it buzzes is probably a net result of 10 to 12 seconds off the game clock. Are these extra 10 to 12 seconds worth a lead going from 13 down to 11 down to 8 down to 6 over the span of 1:42?

    I once had a coach who taught us to play to win rather than to play not to lose… This advice is most important in the final 4 minutes of games. The Clips offense does this time and time again, and CP3 (and Doc for letting him) are the main culprits. With 4 minutes left, it would have been better for the Clips to have had a 2 point lead as they had at 9:02 remaining, instead of the 13 point lead. With only a 2 point lead, I bet they would have played to win rather than play to not lose.

  8. Mike says:

    I hope the NBA will fine the refs this is stupid, OKC gets help vs Grizz, vs Clips, the whole game was stopped when Clips had the 14 points lead, 32 fthrows? enough guys.

    • NewYorker says:

      OK, bad call is a bad call, but the whole replay system is broken. Problem is, the refs were not consistent. It was the same situation as in the Golden State game. Calls have to be consistent.

      I could not believe the Clippers blew this game. Playing like a bunch of scared kids. Not like pros. If you have a good shot with 9 seconds on the clock TAKE IT, do not wait for a terrible shot with 1 second left!!

      I really don’y like OKC, because of how they play. KD looks for the foul first. Here’s a young guy, not injured, who’s playing like he was 37. I mean, I’m OK when a veteran like Billups was doing it in the twilight of his career. Durant tho, he can score in many ways, but no, just trow your body into a defender or pretend you’re shooting to force the foul by going into defender’s hands. I thought they were supposed to stop calling that? They do it for Durant.

  9. NBA Fan says:

    The league should review the replay system, simple as that.

    Clippers did get robbed with that foul and out of bounds play. Officiating should be penalized after that, they had the replay to do review and gave the call to OKC’s favor because of their mess up in not calling the foul.

    That is why the NBA should review the replay system.

    The refs did not act professionally.

    How should the NBA Board react?

  10. txurce says:

    Plain and simple, Barnes fouled Jackson – just ask Doc. So BOTH teams can complain about that call.

    • John says:

      You can’t have it both ways either Barnes made a great D play and hit the ball out of bounds or there is a foul on Barnes because he hit Jackson’s wrist and its out on Jackson and the foul is not reviewable. Regardless the replay is not to make up for a missed call its to clarify what happened.

  11. John says:

    Chris Paul made a terrible mistake thinking he was going to get fouled and went into a shot motion he should know by now they will never give you 3 shots should have dribbled out until the foul was taken. Ball was out on Jackson was the wrong call. Paul did foul Westbrook on on the elbow shooting the 3 and should have not reached. Touching a guy taking a jump shot on the elbow totally throws the shot off just a tap will ruin any shot easily the easiest place to throw a shot off with hardly any effort. Last play Jackson got away with a foul on Paul’s arm while trying to double team him going to the basket that’s why Paul lost control of the ball, he didn’t mention it or talk about it and took complete responsibility for the whole debacle which a good leader should. He lost the game for them. It should not have went down to that last shot anyways.

  12. John says:

    Most of you don’t even understand the concept of this whole flopping issue, this applies to taking charges sliding under people or falling down when the offensive player drives toward you, it creates a hazard for the offensive player. Not Blake’s head moving around or Jamal falling when the guy playing D runs under him as he is shooting a 3 or anything the offensive player is doing and Clippers don’t get fined because they don’t take many offensive fouls or fall to the ground when players drive into them unless the impact actually knocks them down. It’s easier to fall down when the guy goes under your legs than to try to land and turn an ankle trying to land flat and step on his foot.

    • Trix says:

      Before you accuse other people of not understanding something make sure what you are saying is correct. According to you, the nba itself don’t understand flopping because those anti-flopping fines they give out are not for those taking charges but they are given out to people that act a certain way to fake that they got fouled. It is for people who try to fool the officials, exactly what blake does

  13. John says:

    You can’t have it both ways either Barnes made a great D play and hit the ball out of bounds or there is a foul on Barnes because he hit Jackson’s wrist and its out on Jackson and the foul is not reviewable. Regardless the replay is not to make up for a missed call its to clarify what happened.

  14. hornacek says:

    Twenty years later, no one will remember the game, only the winner!

  15. lakers says:

    plain and simple…the ball was last touched by Jackson..bad call ..but clippers also blew game…they went into what we call prevent offense..just like prevent defense in prevents u from winning…paul had crucial turnover and clips lost….game 6 Clippers will get all calls and force game 7 which is what NBA wants …more $$$$$$.NBA IS RIGGED HAD HAS BEEN FOR YEARS

  16. Scmoney says:

    Clippers fans are like “wow refs handed OKC the game” did you forget the only reason you are even this far is because they didn’t call a foul on curry’s shot? Smh you are the worst fans in the NBA, shut up for once

  17. Trix says:

    For all the clipper fans complaining about the call on out of bounds, doc himself admitted it was a foul on Barnes but they didn’t call it so they made up for it. So if the refs called it clips ball, they essentially robbed okc. C’mon man instead of what should have been a two shots at the line for Reggie, okc just got the ball out of bounds. So quit whining. It even more laughable how there are people saying Westbrook didn’t get fouled on the three. He clearly did and that’s not a flop like the cheap stuff Jamal Crawford pulls when he kicks out his leg. That’s an offensive foul people! Don’t even get me started with Blake flop griffin.

  18. Game Time says:

    Paul messed up on that last play and yes he could have put this one away, but the deciding factor for this game was that bad 3pt foul call which clearly wasn’t a foul.

  19. Faba says:

    @your Floppiness: i dont think that Griffin is flopping when constantly gets beat down on his dunk attempts on the other side durant always looking to make unnecessary contact when shooting jump shots…

    • Game Time says:

      You know I will never understand how people don’t see that with Durant, Kobe, PP or other guys that blatantly jump into the defender then throw their arms up after getting touched. It’s like I’m in the Twilight Zone. I will say that Griffin jerks his head a lot, but that’s not flopping since he drives with it down most the time than picks it up fast as he elevates. Just looks awkward.

      • okckd35 says:

        Lol once again biased. The head jerk a la manu ginobili and harden really started when they were supposed to tighten up flopping. Im AMAZED not a single.clipper has been fined yet as they fall over every 3 point shot

      • Chris says:

        Durant throws himself into defenders like an angry bird at pigs, and gets the call everytime. His gameplan seems to be get the defender to foul out every game.

      • Game Time says:

        ^ LMAO at Angry Bird at Big!

  20. NoMilitaryCoup says:

    I wonder if Westbrook thinks he took a bad shot. He needs to know he took a bad shot, which he air-balled earlier in the game. His coach better go at him for such a bad shot at the end of the game with 6 seconds or more remaining! It doesnt matter he kept the team in it, it was such a horrible shot! It is as if he never learns. O man what a bad shot russel took! Durant almost lost his mind until the foul got called.

    Also my 3 year old needs fashion advice, thanks Russ.

  21. okcDoke2014 says:

    Clippers defense closes out series in game 6

  22. King says:

    That was not a foul on Westbrook’s last 3 point attempt.

    • okckd35 says:

      Yes it was. U see him hit his elbow. Doesnt look like much but obviously sent the shot way short. Also CP3 in this article says he fouls him then says he doesnt. Would expect nothing less than the king of flop

    • Arkh says:

      Actually it was a foul, Paul touches Westbrook’s elbow and disrupt the shoot. The Jackson call was bad though

  23. Edward says:

    I believe CP3 will redeem himself and inspire Clips to force a game 7.

    Road to redemption

  24. Edward says:

    I believe CP3 will redeem himself and inspire Clips to force a game 7

  25. TheKush says:

    That was great game I barely left my television set yesterday. Bad call by the refs at the end of the game they missed an obvious foul and then in fear they gave OKC the ball back. W/E things happen in close games the refs should get fined for bad calls I think it would help the game, plus I think those fines should be large enough that referees will think twice before pulling a stunt like that again. I’m not sure if their union has something in their contract that prevents refs from receiving large fines but it should happen especially when it’s a game this big and they got to see the replay.

    Personally I think everybody wants the Sterlings GONE! I think it’s affecting everybody including the referees.

    The clippers are in L.A amazing fan base with deep pockets owners and investors will be lining up to purchase that team. The faster they can get rid of the Sterlings the better, Even though the wrong call was made I found myself siding with OKC because of that dark cloud that hovers around the clippers. I don’t even want the clippers to win a championship this season just because of their now 50% owner. I don’t think he or she deserves or should receive any credit for this teams success. Regardless of what people want to say about their current relationship bottom line is she married the man. It was an excellent game one of the best I’ve seen so far just wish the Sterlings didn’t own that team. I like their players it’s just hard for me to cheer for them. Damn I just wasted two paragraphs rambling about the owners of a team.

  26. MagicDooDoo says:

    CP3 takes the blame, he knows he messed up big.

    Doc needs some blame also for not gathering his team after ref call and dwelling too much on 1 call. It is the coaches job to settle the players down.

    This game decided who wins series, see you next year clippers.

  27. Chris says:

    Durant’s free throw attempts per game is so high above every other player in the league I’m convinced if you breathe on him you’ll be in foul trouble. Last year everyone was calling Miami the cHEat because they believed Miami was getting every call in their favor.. Lebron and his pals have nothing on the lopsided officiating favoring Oklahoma. 36 free throws to the clippers 20, seemed every game deciding call whether clipper ball or not went to OKC.

    How is it that Randolph can get suspended, but Ibaka can’t? Not an intentional contact on the groin punch? It’s the second time he’s done it, and he league fell for it. How is it the league can ban a racist from his team for a conversation illegally obtained but twice they’ve failed to punish unsportsmanlike behavior. This is nba not wwe, it’s obvious now more than ever the league just wants another thunder-heat rematch. Western conference finals? Durant will just launch himself at Leonard like an angry bird and Kawhi will foul out by halftime.

    • Game Time says:

      Proof is in the stats. OKC 36FT attempts LAC 20 with 16 of those going to Durant.

      • okckd35 says:

        Hmmm j7st like the 1st quarter of game 4? Griffin what had 11 ft in the 1st quarter. The fact is LAC cant guard durant or westbrook and are fouling even more than what tjey are being called for

      • Game Time says:

        I think you stats a bit off there, and in the end OKC still shot more FTS.

    • Banks says:

      Do your homework Durant doesn’t lead the playoffs in freethrow attempts… Lebron is even ahead of him in that category and he takes less shots than Durant a game. And a foul is a foul people acting like the refs are just giving out fouls most are earned…
      Okc has only shot 16 more free throws in the entire series that’s not a questionable number….

      • Game Time says:

        Well maybe if you were smart enough to realize Lebron is in the paint MUCH more than Durant and that is were most foul calls are made.

  28. Your Floppiness says:

    I can image Clipper fans will be complaining/crying all day on here. So I will post once and be done. But CP fouling WB on a 3, late what a stupid move. WB has been horrible from the 3 point line! But dude needs a wheel barrel if ya know what I mean for knocking down all 3. Bottom Line Clippers flop like crazy and are usually on the other end of bad calls. So a little taste of your own medicine is what the basketball gods served up!

  29. pokie says:

    Two things: Barry is nuts. Matt’s swipe was clean.Also, Paul is entitled to his vertical defensive space. Westbrook moves forward into it as he shoots. That is what we used to call a play-on, Kids.I have never seen a worse officiated playoffs in my life.

    • Your Floppiness says:

      So I guess Crawford and Paul kicking out their legs on 3 point shots would count the same? It’s only not fair because it’s not in favor of the Clips this time. Watch the replay he hit is forearm while the ball was still in his hand! How do you argue that? How come Doc and clipper fan were not as upset about a bad review when it decided a win for them in the Golden State series?

      • Game Time says:

        It’s called drawing contact. Although it’s not something I agree with it is still a foul if you step into a players space disrupting the way they land. Westbrook went straight up and came straight down without Paul touching him to affect his landing.

    • okckd35 says:

      Matt barnes clearly fouled jackson. Cp3 and crawford have been flopping on every 3 point shot the entire series. I even wrote about it before game 4. So u are saying crawfords 4 point play was clean? Such a homer. The refs made a bad call (even though it is validated in the rule book) but they missed the foul and tried to make up for it. Sure didnt see any clippers fans complaining about the FT parade that won them game 4

  30. Jorge says:

    Paul’s foul on Westbrook’s 3-attempt: notice how the official starts calling the foul before any contact is made.

    I agree with Doc on the review. If the refs do not have access to the same replay that everybody else has access to, the system is flawed and needs serious review.

    The Clippers could have won the game even with the help OKC got from the refs, but as already accepted by themselves, they took bad shots, made the wrong plays.

    All in all, I expect to see a Chris Paul come back with a vengeance and a KD who will try to dominate early on game 6. It is a disappointment that the refereeing had so much to do with the outcome of this game, but Westbrook’s play in the waning minutes was brilliant.

    This is probably the most exciting series at the moment, either team may end up winning.

    • okckd35 says:

      Why is nobody talking about the 4th quarter officiating in game 4 that handed the game to the clippers. No fouls with CP3 hamgong on durants arms? The officials have given away the last 2 games. Even so it should be 3-2 okc so quit crying

  31. The Schoowow says:

    Was it two weeks ago, in a pivotal move, Draymond Green of Golden State Warriors made an attempt on Chris Paul, who clearly touched the ball last before it went out of bounds.
    Play reviewed and ball given back to Clippers. Doc did not protest. Perhaps calls should always go to his side. That pivotal ball possession decided the very close quarter finals in his favor.
    I agree both calls. If a move is reviewable, yet a foul cannot be reviewed, but refs must decide in favor of offended team, otherwise it will be remembered as a game decided by refs. besides, there is this rule that says “when the defender hits the hand of the offensive player and the ball goes out, the ball should be returned to the offensive player”
    Simple, isn’t it? Doc, sometimes it is in your favor, sometimes in favor of the other team. One cannot win all close games nor all close decisions. Refs could give the ball to Paul against Green and to Barnes against Jackson.
    And We would say you represent the bigger market, the LA market.
    Back to 10 years ago, are we ?

    • MGM says:

      Ridiculous, you would make a terrible ref. “refs must decide in favor of an offended team”?? please! fouls are not reviewable, so when you miss one, you just flat out missed it! Dont pitch a call because you missed a previous call, that’s unprofessional and unsportsmanlike, call every call as you see them, regardless of previous calls! (otherwise the refs need to carry a little notepad around and mark down each terrible call so they can dish out favors to each team as they see fit!) ya, thats not how it works. Refs are hired to be unbiased officiators. Make each call on a decision-by-decision basis.

      • okckd35 says:

        Rule book says that since jackson was the offensive player and barnes the defensive player (stripped/fouled) jackson the offensive te retains possession. Not toention barnes was lucky to not be called for another foul during the inbound play as he clearly was holding durants arm around the screen before the ball was inbounded. That would have been 2 ft and the ball lol

  32. Bob says:

    The refs suspend Zach Randolph for a game 7, Ibaka punches Blake in the cojones (no suspension), and this blown call. What can you say? Geez, I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but the big breaks are falling the Thunder’s way this year. Doesn’t the league know that an LA/ Heat Finals would have better ratings?

    • okckd35 says:

      Conspiracy would be refs helping LA due to their biggot owners comments. Much like the NFL helped the patriots win after 9-11

  33. Average Joe says:

    I think CP3 said it best. “Get ready for Game 6.” Crazy series, and it\s about to get even crazier.