Jovan Buha and Fred Katz are still upset about the Clippers’ Game 5 loss to the Thunder, when LA blew a 13-point lead with under four minutes to play. After a night of trading emails, they decided to publish their depressing exchange for the world to see…
Fred Katz: Jovan,
I’m still sad. Or am I angry? I can’t tell. Which one is more rational?
Jovan Buha: Sad is the more rational emotion. The Clippers lost in a gut-wrenching fashion, and now their season is on the line. With all that’s happened recently with the Donald Sterling fiasco, and now this, it’s easy to feel that external forces — perhaps even the notorious Clipper Curse — are at work. If you’re a Clippers fan, it’s normal to feel sorry for yourself. This type of stuff just doesn’t happen to other franchises.
But I’m more angry than anything. I’m angry that the Clippers lost a game in which they were basically leading the entire time. I’m angry that there were four 50/50 calls in the final 47 seconds, and all four went the Thunder’s way. I’m angry that Chris Paul’s worst three-minute stretch of his career happened in his biggest moment. I’m really, really angry, and the only way I’ll be able to get over this emotion is if the Clippers miraculously win the next two games.
Fred: The refereeing hurt. It hurt a lot. And Tuesday night, it was probably what tore me up most. But for some reason, after having 24 hours to soak in that colonoscopy of an ending, I can’t stop thinking about Chris Paul.
I’m not even mad at or upset with Paul. That would be crazy considering how much good he’s done for this organization. But I’m just so surprised, completely frozen in a state of shock.
I can’t believe that the man who everyone universally agrees is the smartest player in the NBA went turnover, foul on a three-point shooter, turnover in the final 15 seconds of the game. I can’t believe that Jackson swiped at Paul’s arm to cause a loose ball on the final play, and for the first time in his life, CP3 didn’t instinctively flop. I can’t believe that after years of cruising around the neighborhood, Paul finally crashed the Lamborghini.
This is what the Walshes must’ve felt like when Brandon got his DUI. How the heck could a straight-A student who has never done anything wrong drink for the first time and then get caught for drunk driving? OK, I’m making references to Beverly Hills 90210 episodes that aired 20 years ago. I’m delirious. What do I do?
Jovan: You need to vent. Let your anger out. Scream. Punch something. Throw something. Cry even. 30 minutes after the game, I went to get ice cream, donuts and strawberry Nesquik.
That actually happened. I’m eating away my feelings.
The most difficult part is the what-if aspect. The series is far from over, but the odds aren’t in the Clippers’ favor. What if these calls costs them the series? What if they costs them a Finals run or a championship? What if Paul never makes the conference finals now, and is dumbly labeled a “choker”? What if this is the best team of this Clippers era, and it’s downhill from here? What if I wonder about these questions for the rest of my life?
This is the best Clippers team ever, even if they lose in Game 6, and don’t advance as far as 2006’s squad (Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals), they’re still the better team.
And that’s what sucks. They should probably be up 3-2 with a chance to win in six. And, as crazy as it sounds, I think they can give the Spurs and Heat a run for their money. This is a legitimate championship contender and those don’t come around often. If that’s lost because of this, that’d be what hurts the most. Do you agree?
Fred: Sure, they’re legitimate championship contenders. This is a top-four team.
But Jovan, you’re making this sound like an obituary. This isn’t over! There are two more games left. Well, let’s try that again…
This isn’t over! There is at least one more game left!
Shouldn’t we feel good that the Clippers almost won even though they played the final four minutes like a bunch of 11-year-olds coached by Martin Lawrence? Shouldn’t there be some encouragement after Jamal Crawford went 7-for-22 and the Clips only lost by one?
Hey, DeAndre Jordan never played fewer than 22 minutes in a game all year (save for game 82, when he ran out for just one minute so he could keep his consecutive games streak going), and he was only on the court for 20 in Game 5.
Maybe this is good. Right? Right?? Right????? (OK, just validate this…)
Jovan: There are definitely some positives to take away. The Clippers have outplayed the Thunder in essentially 53 of the last 57 minutes, which is encouraging. The Clips will also likely benefit from the whistle in Game 6, as we saw happened to them in Game 2 of the Golden State series after such a controversial Game 1.
I don’t mean for this to sound like an obituary — I’m just trying to be realistic. Had they won, they would’ve had a 75.6 percent chance to win the series. However, the loss drops them to just 8.4 percent. That’s a huge swing. It could be a series-changing one, as Doc Rivers noted.
Under the assumption that the Clippers win Game 6 and force Game 7, they’d have to go to OKC and basically win their third game there this series. That’s a lot to ask for from one team, especially one that hasn’t been especially strong on the road.
I’m not saying it’s impossible, I just don’t think it’s likely. And while we can’t directly blame that on one call, we can acknowledge how that call likely changed things for the worse. Gosh, this is terrible.
Fred: I’m so emotionally spent, I just watched the Notebook, the Namesake and Oprah back-to-back-to-back. It wasn’t even Happy Oprah. It was Sad Oprah with one of those disheartening features that make you want to donate money to everyone in the world.
I just hired Sarah McLachlan to play the theme song for my life story. I’m officially throwing in the towel on basketball prosperity.
Jovan: My anxiety for Game 6 is off the charts. I don’t know what to expect. Which brings me to my biggest concern moving forward: Through five games, the Thunder have clearly been the better team. It’s been close, certainly, but they’ve been better. I don’t think that’s a subjective opinion. That’s why winning Game 5 was so important — I’m not sure the Clippers can outplay this team five out of seven times.
The Thunder led for virtually all of Games 2 through 4, and even with the Clippers playing as well as they did in Game 5, OKC was still able to hang around and steal the game in the end. While we argue this series could and should be 3-2 in favor of the Clippers, Thunder fans could also argue that their team should’ve won Game 4 and possibly closed this series out in five.
So let’s move on. There’s no reason to wallow in the past. Game 5 is over 24 hours behind us.
The juicy stuff: What adjustments, if any, do the Clippers need to make in Game 6? It’s apparent that they still have no feasible way of containing Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but if they can stymie the “other guys”, as they did in Games 1 and 5, I think they’ll have a pretty good shot to win. What do you think?
Fred: That makes perfect sense. I still don’t know why J.J. Redick isn’t playing more. He is the best option at 2-guard on both ends of the floor, but Doc has been reluctant to give him deserving minutes all year.
For some reason, he thinks Crawford is more of a defender than everyone else does. He’s had Jamal guard Durant at times in this series. He’s used him in possessions late in games, when he could clearly sub in a more defensive-minded player (like a Redick). But that’s not happening.
The sad irony here is that the guy the Clippers could most use in this series is Eric Bledsoe, the one who Doc traded for Redick. And now, Redick is playing just six seconds in the fourth quarter of Game 5. Crawford’s great when the shots are going in, but even when he’s on fire, it’s not like the Clippers are spreading the ball around and getting it to Blake Griffin when he’s out there. The crunch-time offense becomes “your turn, my turn” with CP3 and him. And it’s strange to see from a team whose attack is so well-oiled.
So, maybe the Clips need to change up some late-game decision making. But they have to do more, right? Can Westbrook just keep killing them like this?
Jovan: I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve honestly felt Redick had a case for being the team’s third-most important player in the first half of the season, before DJ took off and became a monster rebounder and defender. He needs to play more, especially in the fourth.
As far as Westbrook goes, there isn’t much they can do at this point. I think you have to try to bait him into taking long twos and contested threes by playing a bit off in the pick and roll. However, this can work against a defense — and it has against the Clippers — because when Westbrook’s mentally locked in and aggressive, he can gain a full head of steam and get to the rim effortlessly. He single-handedly got DJ and Big Baby in foul trouble because of this.
I’m not sure how you feel, but I think this series will ultimately be determined by how well the Clippers defend. Lost in their Game 5 collapse is the fact that OKC scored 17 points in less than four minutes. That’s unacceptable, regardless of the circumstances. If the Clippers are to extend the series and even win in it, they need to corral the ball-handlers in OKC’s pick-and-roll sets and limit penetration as best they can.
Maybe I’m an optimist, but I think the last game was real progress. Despite their disappointing antics in crunchtime of Game 5, the Clippers are the more disciplined team, and I think that matters in a matchup that’s evenly matched.
My pick: Clippers in seven. What’s yours?
Fred: Wow. Clippers in seven? How many mountains did you climb screaming “Drago!” between emails? You’re so positive, all of a sudden.
And I’m saying the Clippers win Game 6 to give us a little hope and a bunch of stress. But they fall on the road in Game 7. And if we end up basking in an offseason of what-ifs, let’s just remember what Tony Allen so perfectly said after the Grizzlies’ Game 7 loss to the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs:
“If ifs were fifths, we’d all be drunk.”