Let me be up front — the Los Angeles Clippers did not lose because of this play. They were up 13 with four minutes to go, up 7 inside a minute. The Clippers in general and Chris Paul in particular made a series of terrible decisions and plays — such as fouling Russell Westbrook on a three with 6.7 seconds left, sending him to the line to win the game.
But that’s not what people are talking about.
It’s not what Doc Rivers was talking about after the game — he was livid about the play above. He kept screaming at the officials “that’s our ball.” After Westbrook strips Paul near midcourt (another of Paul’s big late game errors) he passes to Reggie Jackson, who attacks the rim and decides to go for the lay-up rather than the lob dunk to Kevin Durant. The Clippers Matt Barnes fouls Jackson, but there is no call. Instead, the referees ruled the ball out off Barnes.
They went to the replay — a replay that clearly shows the ball going out off Jackson — and decided it was inconclusive. Here is the explanation from crew chief referee Tony Brothers:
“When the ball goes out of bounds, the ball was awarded to Oklahoma City. We got review the play. We saw two replays. The two replays we saw were from the overhead camera showing down, and one from under the basket showing the same angle but from a different view. And from these 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 on the floor.”
Rivers was infuriated in his post-game press conference, saying what is the point of having replay if you’re not going to use it properly.
“That is a game defining and possibly a series defining call. And that’s not right,” Rivers said.
“That was our ball. We got robbed.”
He is going to get a massive fine for that. He didn’t care. He might as well have taken his checkbook into the press conference.
He’s not the only Clipper likely to get fined.
Matt Barnes Instagram: “There’s no question this went off my hand last right?#F*€koutahere!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Questioning the refs and swearing? That’s a fine.
There is a rule explanation floating around twitter, suggesting this is the right call because Barnes hit the hand of the player and forced it out of bounds, and in that case the ball should have gone to OKC. Former NBA head of officials Stu Jackson said because of this it’s the right call. I’ve never seen it called that way. What is more, that is not what the officials said was the reason for their ruling.
The bottom line is the Clippers lost a heartbreaking Game 5. It’s the kind of dramatic win that energizes one side and will demoralize the other. We’ll see if the Clippers can bounce back from this. Or if Rivers has calmed down in two days.