The stage was bigger, but the Clippers were in the same place on their homecourt in the same situation of a tight game. These fourth-quarter situations have plagued them before and those gut-wrenching, late-game mistakes reared their ugly head.
With 4.9 seconds left and down 1 in Game 5 to the Spurs in the Western Conference first-round playoff series, Blake Griffin took a shot in the lane. The ball was in the cylinder, appearing as though it was going to fall through the net for the lead when DeAndre Jordan hit the ball and tipped it in.
Unfortunately for Jordan and the Clippers, a goaltending call was made, and that sealed it and the Spurs won 111-107. The Clippers had to foul and another heartbreaking home loss was in the books.
"It was a dumb-ass play. I hit the ball," Jordan said. "We did a good job fighting to put us in the situation to go up 1. You can’t blame anybody but me. I tipped the ball. I hit it."
Griffin thought the ball was going in, too. Had the ball fallen through the net, the Clippers would’ve been ahead 109-108 with about 4 seconds left.
Who knows if the Spurs would’ve had a game-winner from Kawhi Leonard or Tim Duncan or a missed shot from Danny Green. We’ll never know.
"The last play going in, I couldn’t tell if D.J. touched it or not," Griffin said. "Obviously, that was the call, but I thought it was good. It didn’t happen."
Griffin knows the pain of where Jordan’s mistake all too well. In Game 2 of this series, Griffin had the ball with the Clippers up by 2 points with 11 seconds left at Staples Center. Griffin is one of the most sure-handed ball handlers on the team, even at his size, and somehow he lost control of the ball.
The Spurs tied the game and won in overtime. The Clippers could’ve should’ve would’ve been up 2-0 in the series. Instead, it was 1-1 and the teams split in San Antonio.
Without the mistakes, the Clippers could’ve had the Spurs on the brink of elimination in San Antonio.
Now, the Clippers are facing elimination in Texas on Thursday.
Jordan is faced with moving on after that goaltending call. He spent a lot of time at his locker after the game before talking to reporters. The reality of the loss and that play was setting in.
"I was under the basket, so I couldn’t really (know)," Jordan said. "I was trying to make a play on the ball, but it ended up being a dumb play. Like I said, that is on me."
After he walked out of the locker room, he received hugs from Chris Paul’s parents.
Griffin took the blame for the loss in Game 2 and Jordan took the blame in Game 5. The reality is every player makes mistakes – Chris Paul was called for a controversial technical for throwing the ball back to the referee before an inbounds play with 4:48 left, and Danny Green made the free throw.
But those mistakes at the end are hard to ignore and the ones that are remembered most.
For Griffin, he’d surely love to have that shot back, an 8-foot jumper, with 59 seconds left. Tim Duncan – the 39-year-old who seems to get better with age – blocked it, then stripped it. Boris Diaw stole it. And just like that, there was another wasted offensive possession for the Clippers.
The Spurs led by two when that play happened. Another last-minute miscue. And now the Clippers must win a Game 6 at the AT&T Center to force a Game 7 back in Los Angeles.
"It’s tough, but the series isn’t over and we can’t think like that," Griffin said. "We’ve got to be ready to come play. It’s going to be a hostile environment in San Antonio. Close-out game, elimination game for them, so we’ve got to be ready to go. Series isn’t over, though."