PLAYA VISTA, Calif. — The long flight home and a decent night’s sleep didn’t help.
By Wednesday afternoon, the Clippers’ two biggest stars were still wearing long faces. Even with a night to recover, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were pictures of dejection, mad at themselves for giving away a game and hoping to put it behind them.
They don’t have much time, which is why a short memory is imperative. They’re facing an elimination game Thursday night at Staples Center, where the Oklahoma City Thunder can wrap up the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal with a win.
Or the Clippers can force a Game 7.
But first, they have to let go of Tuesday’s controversial 105-104 loss.
"I was very upset last night, and rightly so, but you’ve got to move on," coach Doc Rivers said. "That’s basically what I told our guys last night on the plane. We had a little impromptu meeting. I told them, ‘Listen, it doesn’t matter. It’s 3-2, we’ve got to win at home and then go win on the road. That’s got to be our focus.’ "
Rivers said he spoke with league officials earlier in the day but wouldn’t divulge what was said. There was no word about a fine, although he certainly will be hit with one after his postgame comments were critical of the referees.
But he was just as adamant about a decisive call in the last 11.3 seconds, saying, "It’s no doubt. You guys know. But at the end of the day, we put ourselves in that situation."
The Clippers, who blew a 13-point lead with 4:13 left and a seven-point lead with 49 seconds remaining, were still seething about a play in which possession was awarded to the Thunder after the ball appeared to go off the hand of OKC’s Reggie Jackson.
The Thunder scored on the subsequent play when Paul, who made two turnovers in the final 14 seconds, fouled Russell Westbrook on a 3-point shot, and Westbrook made all three free throws to close out the game.
"Obviously, one got away from us," Paul said. "But we’ve got an opportunity to try and get it back tomorrow."
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Paul pointed the finger at himself after the game, but Rivers spread the blame evenly Wednesday.
"We did a lot of things as a group, and I know C.P. has taken a lot on his shoulders, but it wasn’t just C.P. in this," he said. "It was our whole team. We all made mistakes. Our transition (defense) broke down. We did a lot of things down the stretch with our trust and what we’ve done all year. It really came back to haunt us."
Paul was still forlorn on Wednesday, even though Griffin said he and Jamal Crawford tried to offer encouragement on the bus to the airport.
"I told him, ‘That game is not on one guy,’ " Griffin said. "It’s not on him."
Paul was trying his best to move forward, saying, "I woke up this morning with a beautiful wife and two beautiful kids. At the end of the day it is basketball, and there’s a lot of guys whose livelihoods depends on this, so I’ve got to do my part."
They all do, but as Rivers explained to his players on the flight home, the playoffs are a learning experience. No matter what happens Thursday night, they’ll understand the difficulty of playing in the postseason.
Nothing comes easily.
"Yeah, this is hard," Rivers said. "It’s supposed to be. That’s what 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, and you’ve just got to deal with it. You can vent like I did last night, and the next morning you get up and you smile, you go out and you do your job.
"If you think you’re going to win without adversity, without obstacles, then you’re in the wrong game."