Doc Rivers: Officials 'robbed' Clips

ByArash Markazi ESPN logo
Wednesday, May 14, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said his team was "robbed" by the officials in a 105-104 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night.

Rivers was furious during and after the game that, following a replay review, officials awarded the ball to Oklahoma City with 11.3 seconds left and the Clippers up 104-102. On the play, it appeared as if the ball went out of bounds off Thunder guard Reggie Jackson's right hand after Clippers forward Matt Barnes hit Jackson's left hand as he went up for a layup following a turnover by Chris Paul.

With no foul called on the floor, the officials could review only who touched the ball last. It seemed clear to Rivers and the Clippers that the ball went off Jackson.

"It was our ball," Rivers said. "Everybody knows it was our ball. I think the bottom line is they thought it was a foul and they made up for it. Then, in my opinion, let's take away replay. Let's take away the replay system because that's our ball, we win the game and we got robbed because of that call. It's clear.

"Everyone in the arena saw it. That's why everybody was shocked when they said 'Oklahoma City.' That was our ball whether it was a foul or not, and it was, but they didn't call it."

Rivers and Clippers players continued to complain about the call as the Thunder inbounded the ball, and they had even more to complain about five seconds later when Paul was called for fouling Russell Westbrook on a 3-point attempt.

Westbrook hit all three free throws, and the Thunder went on to win after Paul turned the ball over again on the final possession.

"Now, we made our own mistakes," Rivers said. "We turned the ball over, we fouled on a 3-pointer, 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. That's what I heard. That's a bunch of crap, and you all know it."

Referee Tony Brothers told a pool reporter after the game that the replays were inconclusive, resulting in Oklahoma City retaining the ball, which was the call on the court.

"When the ball goes out of bounds, the ball was awarded to Oklahoma City," Brothers said. "We go review the play. We saw two replays. The two replays we saw were from the overhead camera showing down, and the one from under the basket showing the same angle but from a different view. And 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."

Barnes was certain the ball went off Jackson, saying after the game, "There's no question. I'm willing to [bet] my kids on it. That ball went off him."

Afterward, Paul was still upset with the call and the final 45 seconds of the game, calling it "the toughest thing I've been through basketball-wise."

"Everything that happened there at the end is on me," Paul said. "The turnover with 17 seconds left, assuming they were going to foul, was probably the dumbest play I've ever made. To even put it in the official's hand to call a foul on a 3 ... it's just bad basketball."

Rivers compared the play to one in Game 1 of the Clippers' first-round series against the Golden State Warriors. 

The Clippers were down 107-105 with 18.9 seconds left, and Paul was dribbling the ball above the arc when he was double-teamed by Steve Blake and Draymond Green. Paul lost the ball after Green reached in, and it looked as if Green had committed a foul. The play was reviewed, but because no foul was called on the floor, the only reviewable action was who touched the ball last, which was Paul. The Warriors got the ball, hit two more free throws and went on to win the game.

The next day, the league issued a statement saying a foul should have been called on the play.

"The same thing happened to us in the Golden State series where they tried to reverse the call," Rivers said. "They didn't even want to look at the replay because they knew it was a foul and they had to look at the replay and they had to go by what it said. And so they gave Golden State the ball, and the NBA later said that it should have been a foul on the call. The official on that play knew that he didn't see a foul but he had to be honest on the replay. That didn't happen here."

The NBA's officiating rulebook says that when a player's hand is hit, causing the ball to go out of bounds, that team retains possession. While it appeared the ball went off Jackson, what might have been inconclusive is whether Barnes' contact caused the ball to go out of bounds off Jackson.

"Everybody in the arena and everybody on TV saw it. It was so clear," Rivers said. "I usually wait but it was so clear that I went and grabbed the clipboard and I'm drawing up a side out-of-bounds [play] to get the ball in. When I saw them point that way, I thought they were pointing at us like it's our ball. I didn't realize they were actually pointing [the other] way, but what can you do?"

Rivers said later that he didn't believe the referees purposely missed the call or tried to cheat the Clippers.

"The one thing I know about our officials -- they don't do anything on purpose," Rivers said. "They don't cheat or anything like that. They made a horrendous call, but at the end of the day, we created the situation. We put them in the situation with the turnovers, bad fouls and non-fouls. We did a lot ourselves to not win the game."

Still, Rivers said he doesn't want a memo from the league Wednesday apologizing for another missed call.

"No, I don't need it," he said. "I'll release the memo. They blew the call. That's the memo."

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