Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder is challenged by Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 13, 2014 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
“We got robbed,” Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers screamed into the microphone after Tuesday's loss.
The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the LA Clippers 105-104 in Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead, but the game was covered in controversy and questionable officiating.
The Clippers started Game 5 in the exact same manner they finished Game 4 against the Thunder, and the hometown crowd quickly fell silent as their team fell behind early.
Hometown kid Blake Griffin, who under performed in the series' opening two games in Oklahoma City, was the Clippers’ standout player from the jump. Griffin scored 11 points in the first quarter, which was more than Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined.
Durant and Westbrook struggled early on with Durant shooting only 1-4 in his first 12 minutes on the court and Westbrook committing three turnovers during his opening spell.
Aided by the opposition's struggling stars, the Clippers’ role players stepped up early to open up a 15-point lead. J.J. Redick finished the opening quarter with 10 points, and Matt Barnes added eight tallies of his own.
In the second period, the Thunder managed to dig into the deficit and even took the lead for a moment. However, the home town fans found themselves nervously biting their nails soon enough, as the Thunder dropped back down by double digits before settling down six points at the half.
At the intermission, Griffin was up to 15 points and Redick, who hit a last-second three-pointer before the break, had 13 points to lead the way for the Clippers. Not to be overlooked, Chris Paul had nine points and seven assists and could take a great deal of credit for the 58-52 lead the Clippers carried into the half.
For the Thunder, Durant and Westbrook shoot poorly from the field in the first 24 minutes, but the dynamic duo consistently earned trips to the foul line. Oklahoma City’s two stars made 16 of 17 free throws in the first half. The Clippers, as a team, were 10 of 12 from the charity stripe in the first half.
In the third quarter, Griffin continued to make baskets, and Durant continued to struggle with his shots. Luckily, Westbrook and his Thunder teammates stepped up to cut into the Clippers’ lead and keep the game competitive entering the fourth quarter.
After three quarters, Durant was 3-17 from the field, and Westbrook led all scorers with 29 points. The former UCLA point guard had hit the Clippers for 14 points in the third quarter alone.
Clippers reserve Jamal Crawford made a couple big buckets to keep the Clippers ahead and give the visitors a six-point edge entering the final period.
In the final quarter, Crawford continued to rebound from his slow start. In the first half, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year only had three points on 1-7 shooting from the field. Crawford would eventually finish with 19 points, nine of which came in the fourth quarter.
With his team trailing by 11 points and only three and a half minutes remaining in the game, Durant finally woke up. The league’s MVP stepped up to score 10 points in the final quarter, including five points in the final 45 seconds.
After Paul turned the ball over on an inexplicable play, the game turned controversial.
Off Paul's interception, Thunder guard Reggie Jackson was seemingly fouled on his way to the basket. Barnes' swipe resulted in the ball of bounds, but the no foul was called. Instead, the referees reviewed the monitor and gave the ball to Oklahoma City despite the replay showing the ball last touching Jackson. It appeared to be a makeup call for the non-call on the foul Barnes had committed on the same play.
However, that type of call was outside the parameters of the existing replay rules, and Rivers was livid. Rivers would lose his cool on the court and in the postgame press conference after the loss, and it was easy to understand why. After the game, Rivers called for the entire replay system to be removed.
"I’ll release the memo: They blew the call. That’s the memo," Rivers said after the game. “A series defining call, and that’s not right.”
Even with the questionable call, the Clippers still led by two points with less than 10 seconds to play. Westbrook attempted a three-pointer with 6.4 second to go for the win, and Paul fell for the trap and tapped the Thunder’s guard on the elbow.
After Westbrook converted three free throws, the Thunder led 105-104, and that would be the final score, as the Clippers’ final play broke down.
Game 6 will be at Staples Center on Thursday.