NBA: Pivotal play 'correctly stood'
And the NBA seemed to do the same, defending the outcome of a play that came with 11.3 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter Tuesday, when it appeared the ball went out of bounds off Reggie Jackson but the Thunder were awarded possession by the referees after video review.
"With 11.3 seconds left in the game, the basketball went out of bounds on the baseline and the referees ruled the ball belonged to the Thunder," the league's president of basketball operations, Rod Thorn, said in a statement Wednesday. "The referees then used instant replay to review the play. In order to reverse the call made on the court, there has to be 'clear and conclusive' evidence.
"Since no replay provided such evidence, the play correctly stood as called with the Thunder retaining possession."
Prior to Thorn issuing the statement, Rivers said he spoke to the league office about the game, but said the content of that conversation was "private."
As of Wednesday evening, the NBA had still not determined whether Rivers would be fined for publicly criticizing the officiating, according to a league source.
Rivers had calmed considerably since his postgame comments when the incensed coach said his team was "robbed" of the victory and dubbed the call that went in favor of the Thunder with 11.3 seconds left a "series-defining play."
The coach chose to put Tuesday's 105-104 loss in the past, saying he would not file a formal protest with the league over the result. The defeat dropped the Clippers into a 3-2 series deficit.
Protests are a rarity in the NBA. They can be filed by a governor, alternative governor or head coach of a team and must be accompanied by a $10,000 check which will be forfeited if the protest is not granted.
During the 2007-08 season, the league granted the Miami Heat's protest to replay the final 51.9 seconds of their game against the Atlanta Hawks because the official scorer incorrectly ruled that Shaquille O'Neal had fouled out of the game. Before that, the league had not granted a protest since 1982.
"I don't ever do that," Rivers said before practice Wednesday. "I've never filed a protest in my life because I don't know what you get for it. You don't get the game back and you can't get (a do-over). It's funny, in Boston a couple times they wanted me to do it. I said, 'No thank you. I'll pass on that.'
"Listen, the one thing I know is no one does anything on purpose," Rivers added. "I don't believe in any of that stuff. So it happens, it happened and we move on."
Before the Clippers were ready to move on, they let the "sting" of the loss that puts their season on the brink of elimination set in, according to Blake Griffin.
First, on the bus ride from the arena to the airport late Tuesday night, Griffin and Jamal Crawford huddled with Chris Paul to try to convince the point guard that the loss wasn't his fault.
"He was visibly upset and I told him that game is not on one guy," said Griffin of Paul, who had two turnovers and fouled Russell Westbrook on a 3-point attempt in the game's final minute. "It's not on him. We made plenty of mistakes down the stretch. We made plenty of mistakes throughout the game that could ultimately change the outcome. So, that idea that it's on him, I understand what he's saying, but it's not on anybody."
The readying process really began on the plane ride from Oklahoma City to L.A. later Tuesday night, when the Clippers held an "impromptu team meeting," according to Rivers.
"Listen, you don't win easy," Rivers said, recalling his message. "You don't win it easy. You may win a game, but we're trying to do something special here and be something special and if you're trying to stand out in any job, it's going to be hard. You're going to face adversity. And you just got to accept that that's part of the process. Yeah, this is hard, because it's supposed to be. That's the only thing I told our guys: What's going on right now is exactly what should happen to win. You have to go through stuff to win. You just got to deal with it."
It's something that his Celtics dealt with in 2008, going to a Game 7 in the first round against the Atlanta Hawks before advancing and another Game 7 in the second round against the Cleveland Cavaliers before eventually taking the title.
"The emotional roller coaster of the playoffs is unbelievable," said Griffin, adding that he could relate to the ride Rivers and the Celtics had in 2008. "I was telling somebody after Game 4, I pretty much experienced every single emotion I have and last night as well. So, it's the first to four for a reason. We're not out of this by any means."
Rivers echoed the same confidence.
"The way we look at it, we have back-to-back elimination games coming up -- Game 6 and Game 7," Rivers said. "And that's how we have to look at it. And we shouldn't look at it as anything with any tension. We should be really be looking forward to it. This should be a lot of fun. We should embrace it. And this is all good."
The three Paul miscues were picked over again before practice Wednesday, however. It began with a play with 13.9 seconds remaining and the Clippers up 104-102 when Paul tried to get fouled attempting a 3-pointer in the backcourt some 75 feet from the hoop and Westbrook stole it from him.
"Assuming that he was going to foul, but that's on me," Paul said. "Doc told me I got in my own way, thinking the game too much. They usually don't even give me that call anyway, so it's probably something I'll never do again."
Then Paul fouled Westbrook while he was launching a shot from long range with 6.4 seconds left.
"You got to be close and you got to contest," Rivers said. "Chris did his job and last night he took a half a step too close."
Finally, Paul lost the ball on the Clippers' final possession with 0.9 seconds left when it appeared his arm was jarred by Jackson, squandering L.A.'s chance at even attempting a game-winning shot.
"No," Paul said when asked if Jackson fouled him. "I didn't even realize Reggie was there until I looked at the film and I felt like I lost it."
Add it all up, and the Clippers find themselves in a must-win situation on Thursday.
"The crazy part about the game is that if any of those things would have happened right just one time, we win the game," Rivers said. "Heck, even if the officials had called a foul (on Matt Barnes) on the last play, that would have helped us more than the way it turned out. So, it was one of those games. But again, after five games, somebody was going to be up 3-2. Unfortunately it's not us, but we're good with that. We'll be ready."
Games are never won on paper, but immediately after last night’s draft there appear to be some definite winners and losers. Despite all the prognostications, drafting is one of the most inexact sciences in sports, especially as different players mature at different rates. Potential is one of the greatest, and riskiest, factors considered by NBA teams. With that, here are the preliminary impressions of last night’s draft.
Detroit Pistons- The Pistons were extremely lucky to have Greg Monroe fall to them with the seventh pick of the draft. He was expected to go higher and fits Detroit’s low-post need; expect to see Monroe contribute from the beginning. Drafting Terrico White with the 36th pick is another flat-out steal; White may have been the best athlete in the draft. Although guard is not a huge need for the Pistons, his development could make the aging Richard Hamilton expendable.
Los Angeles Clippers- The Clippers filled their two biggest needs: small forward and backup point guard. Al-Farouq Aminu has star potential and should be an integral part of LA’s young nucleus at small forward. With Baron Davis not getting any younger, it was very savvy for the Clippers to acquire Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe was overshadowed by John Wall at Kentucky last year and may turn out to be one of the draft’s better sleepers. Learning from Davis will season him even more. As if this draft couldn’t get any better, the Clippers landed Willie Warren, once considered a top 10 talent, with the 54th overall pick. If Warren is able to undergo an attitude adjustment, he could be a big contributor at the NBA level.
Oklahoma City Thunder- The NBA’s team of the future entered the draft knowing it needed to fortify the post. They did exactly that, trading to get Cole Aldrich. Aldrich is a physical presence capable of playing both post positions and may finally be the one to close OKC’s revolving door at center. GM Sam Presti also shrewdly dealt Eric Bledsoe for a future first round pick from the Clippers. Bledsoe is a good player but the Clippers are unlikely to get out of the lottery in the near future, virtually assuring OKC of a high pick.
Golden State Warriors- Drafting Ekpe Udoh sixth overall was a reach, to say the least. The Warriors were seduced by Udoh’s athleticism and workouts and ignored the fact that, even at 23 years old, he is still very raw. Some point to Udoh’s two pedestrian seasons at Michigan and wonder if his one successful year at Baylor was a byproduct of their system. Even more befuddling is the fact that Golden State has two other players in Brandan Wright and Anthony Randolph who are essentially the same: athletic small forwards who need seasoning. This was a misdirected pick and the Warriors should have targeted Greg Monroe.
New York Knicks- The Knicks spent both their second round picks on players—Andy Rautins and Landry Fields—who some didn’t even expected to be drafted. They could both be serviceable NBA role players, but the Knicks’ thinking is confusing because the players are so similar. These picks were obviously made with the intent of surrounding LeBron James with shooters but if he signs elsewhere, this thinking looks even more misguided.
Could Go Either Way
Sacramento Kings- On the surface, one would think the Kings had a tremendous draft. Some thought DeMarcus Cousins had the talent to go number one overall and corralling him at five was fortuitous. The same goes for Hassan Whiteside, who slipped to 33 after once being regarded as a lottery pick. However, drafting both of them together may pose some problems. Both saw their stock drop due to questionable attitudes and they play the same position, creating a potential logjam at center along with Samuel Dalembert, who will command minutes in a contract year. There is no doubting the talent but the Kings will need to have a coach capable of developing chemistry and fostering maturity in these players, especially when minutes may be scarce.
Indiana Pacers- GM Larry Bird eschewed his tradition of taking proven college players by making some risky picks. Paul George has tremendous upside but can be turnover prone and lack motivation. Perhaps the biggest question is how he’ll play with superstar Danny Granger, who has a very similar style. Magnum Rolle brings length and athleticism and Lance Stephenson has tremendous upside and was a great value pick in the second round. However, Stephenson’s attitude is widely questioned and if he doesn’t mature, he could harm team chemistry.
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