What we know is that the Oklahoma City Thunder stole Game 5 from the Los Angeles Clippers in an ending that was either marred by a comedy of errors or enhanced by erratic, wildly-entertaining back-and-forth play at both ends, depending on your point of view.
What we're left to consider is how the hell did it all happen so fast? Somehow, it's a game that ends with the blood of the Point God all over it.
Chris Paul is considered either the third best basketball player alive or merely the top point guard in the game, but the Clippers star's recklessness in crunch-time is largely responsible for putting the Thunder one game away from advancing to the conference finals. First, Paul turned the ball over in the backcourt with L.A. leading by two with 13 seconds left with the type of play that would only be fitting in a junior high game. Russell Westbrook went for the steal and Paul left his feet to appear to try to get the refs to call a shooting foul on a play 70 feet from the basket, as we've seen him do so many times. Then Paul fouled Russell Westbrook on an egregiously bad three-pointer attempt with six seconds left that allowed OKC to take the lead for good.
Westbrook is supposed to be the out of control point guard and Paul the one providing heady and steady leadership, but a game like Game 5 leaves you questioning everything you know. Just when you think you have these NBA playoffs figured out, they give another bold reminder that no one has any idea. -Ricky O'Donnell
'We got robbed'
For pure eye-popping insanity, nothing beats the final minute of the Thunder's miraculous win over the Clippers on Wednesday. But Doc Rivers' rant, at right, sure came close.
The beautiful part about the blistering indictment of the referees is that everyone knew it was coming from the moment the game ended. (Heck, Doc was repeatedly screaming "that's our ball!" at the refs during the game. And after the game. Of course it would carry into the press conference!) The jokes on Twitter about Doc's impending fine came flooding in before he sat at the podium.
But then Doc went out and delivered. He said his team "was robbed," and reminded everyone that the Clippers were jobbed on a similar situation -- where a foul should have been called but wasn't, resulting in an L.A. turnover -- in the first round. He earned what should be about a $50,000 fine, I reckon.
But there's more: a rule actually allows that if "a player has his hand in contact with the ball and an opponent hits the hand causing the ball to go out-of-bounds, the team whose player had his hand on the ball will retain possession." Only the referees didn't use that rule when explaining why they gave the ball to the Thunder! They just said video was inconclusive. (It was not.) So one can only imagine how many wordsmiths will be developing the Transparent NBA's explanation on Wednesday, which should hit inboxes everywhere just as Doc gets his big fat invoice. -Tom Ziller
Let Westbrook be Westbrook. That's the mantra, repeated over and over again. Whether earnest or sarcastic, that had to be the case on Tuesday night, as Kevin Durant struggled against the Clippers. Luckily for Oklahoma City, Westbrook showed up big as the Thunder came back in the final minute to grab a win and a 3-2 series lead.
Los Angeles clamped down on the MVP, and it was up to Westbrook to take charge. The slashing point guard dipped through the lane, dominating at the charity stripe and shooting 11-of-23 on his way to 38 points. For all that's been piled on Westbrook over the years, on this night, he bailed out Durant like we've never seen.
No responsibility was greater than when Westbrook went to the line with six seconds remaining and the Thunder down, 104-102. The OKC guard had just taken a three-pointer and was fouled by Clippers guard Chris Paul. Perma-scowl burned onto his face, Westbrook calmly stepped to the free throw line and sunk all three free throws, giving the Thunder the lead and the win.
Now, instead of a Clippers victory, the Thunder travel back to Los Angeles with a lead and a chance to eliminate their opponents on Thursday. Nobody knows what might happen back at Staples. But if I had to guess, Oklahoma City lets Westbrook be Westbrook. -Dane Carbaugh
Here we go again
How ridiculous are the Indiana Pacers? Let’s count the ways.
They spent the entire season trying to win every game in an effort to secure homecourt advantage in the playoffs ... where they have posted a losing postseason record. They were outscored in the third quarter by John Wall ... who wasn’t even the best player on the floor. That would be Marcin Gortat ... who annihilated their vaunted back line.
The Pacers not only failed to win a closeout game in their own building after two galvanizing road wins that made everyone say something like, "Gee, the Pacers might be back," they lost by 23 points. They were also outrebounded by 39 and gave up 18 offensive rebounds to a team that shot 50 percent.
Shorter version: The Pacers are very ridiculous. -Paul Flannery
The Wizards' battery shows up
Did John Wall inspire Marcin Gortat, or did Marcin Gortat inspire John Wall? Ultimately, the answer is functionally irrelevant. The point guard/center battery has been the key to the Wizards' success all year and was also missing in action in their three losses in this series. Wall suffered a confidence crisis against the Pacers' vaunted defense, while Gortat ushered in the return of Dominant Roy Hibbert.
Both needed to step up to save the Wizards' season, and so they did. Wall made it a point to get Gortat shots early, and the Polish Hammer/Machine, in turn, dominated the glass and threw in hook shots and baby jumpers in the post to the tune of 31 points and 16 rebounds. With Gortat set, Wall was free to take over himself, scoring 17 in the third quarter and 27 in the game to carry the Wizards.
Indiana is still in good shape, but if Washington's battery carries this performance forward, the Wizards have a real shot. Judging from their postgame comments, this could be an emotional turning point. -Mike Prada
Brooklyn Nets at Miami HeatMiami leads 3-1 | 7 p.m. ET, TNTAmerican Airlines Arena, Miami, Fla.
Portland Trail Blazers at San Antonio SpursSan Antonio leads 3-1 | 9:30 p.m. ET, TNTAT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
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