The NBA fined Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers $25,000 today for being correct. Rivers was justifiably irked Tuesday night after the refs blew two calls in the process of awarding the Oklahoma City Thunder the ball with 11.3 seconds remaining in their playoff game Tuesday night. OKC guard Reggie Jackson appeared to have lost the ball after the Clippers’ Matt Barnes took a swipe at it. The Thunder went on to win 105-104.
In the press conference afterward, 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… let’s take away replay system because that’s our ball and we win the game. And we got robbed because of that call.”
Using the phrase “we got robbed” in the NBA is shorthand for “please lighten my wallet by 25 large.” The league doesn’t allow coaches to question its integrity. But Rivers wasn’t questioning the integrity of the refs, merely their competency. This was a case of, who touched the ball last before it went out of bounds. And replays showed it was Jackson. Oh, wait a minute, they didn’t. At least according to the NBA, which issued a statement saying that the call couldn’t be reversed because there has to be “clear and conclusive” evidence. Apparently, Mr. Magoo was reviewing the replay.
What was perfectly clear, even before the controversy, was that the Clippers had put themselves in a perfect position to blow the game. They surrendered a 13 point lead in the last 3:30, and their wonder guard Chris Paul fouled Russell Westbrook while he was shooting a three not long after Paul coughed the ball up in the play leading to the controversy. Rivers admitted as much, but absent that call his team still had a chance to claim the victory. This was another great game in a great series and it certainly deserved great refereeing— or at least better refereeing than it got. Fining Rivers for pointing that out only makes it the issue that much more glaring