The Western Conference semifinal series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers has been a back-and-forth battle. Matchups on the interior as well as on the perimeter have been physical, but OKC point guard Russell Westbrook doesn’t want anyone to mistake "flopping" for "chippyness."
Per CBS Sports’ Royce Young, the talented floor general said the following:
It’s fair to say that Westbrook is frustrated following Game 4's blown opportunity.
After leading by a 22-point margin, the Thunder managed to blow a double-digit fourth-quarter lead. Instead of OKC taking a commanding 3-1 series advantage, the Clips knotted things up at 2-2 with a thrilling comeback win.
While Oklahoma City’s floor general has called out his opponents for embellishing contact, the series has definitely qualified as chippy.
Clippers All-Star big man Blake Griffin has had his nose and mouth bloodied at different points of this series as a result of involuntary contact. He and shot-blocking specialist Serge Ibaka even exchanged (seemingly inadvertent) groin shots in Game 4.
Fans can essentially call that Round 2 of the Griffin/Ibaka below-the-belt saga, because Scott Brooks’ 24-year-old power forward socked Griffin’s man zone last year, resulting in a $25,000 fine.
Of course, Westbrook shouldn’t be excluded from the flopping conversation that he’s decided to start.
With 3:40 remaining in the third quarter of Game 4, Griffin chipped Westbrook as he tried to close out on a perimeter shot from L.A.'s Matt Barnes. Westbrook sold the contact by flailing his arms, which resulted in a controversial fifth foul on Blake. There was definitely contact, but it didn't influence the play's outcome (skip to 1:32 of the embedded video).
The sooner fans realize that their favorite teams—and favorite players—flop, the better off the NBA community will be.
Instilling warnings and fines for flopping offenses hasn’t stopped them from occurring. It’s simply a factor of gamesmanship at this point.
Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson accused Griffin of the NBA taboo in the first round of the postseason by saying he “plays physical and flops a little bit” in an interview with 95.7 The Game radio, via ESPN’s Arash Markazi.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers responded to that comment by saying, “That’s Klay’s opinion; I don’t really care. I just keep looking at what Blake’s done. If he’s flopping, then keep doing it because those numbers look awful good to me. So flop on,” per Markazi.
Referees have the unenviable task of distinguishing a flop from a legitimate foul in real time. Sometimes they aren’t fooled. Other times players bait them into blowing the whistle.
Both of these teams flop to gain an advantage, and both of them play a physical style of basketball. They’ve matched each other’s strengths to this point, but keeping emotions in check will be a key X-factor moving forward.
Whichever team keeps its head in the face of adversity will head to the Western Conference Finals. If the Clippers can ride the momentum they garnered from Game 4 into Oklahoma City, don't be surprised if they snag Games 5 and 6 en route to the next round.