Nothing could stop Doc Rivers from putting his lungs through a strenuous workout Tuesday night.
Minutes after the Los Angeles Clippers fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5, Rivers was going to be heard. Irate over a possibly blown call late in the game, no one was exempt from being subjected to Rivers' verbal dander.
Fresh off a stunning collapse that had pushed his Los Angeles Clippers within a game of season's end, still fuming over a controversial replay call he would later lament as potentially "series-defining," coach Doc Rivers marched out of the locker room late Tuesday with fury in his eyes. He headed toward the interview room only to spot Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett walking past in the hallway.
"Wow!" Rivers yelled at Bennett. "Why can't we get the right replay?"
Bennett, perhaps still stunned by his unlikely change in fortune, didn't say a word in response and just kept walking.
Bennett should consider himself lucky. This could have been worse.
Rivers was caught on camera just after the final buzzer, his face overrun with rage, screaming in the general direction of the referees. When he reached the podium for his postgame press conference, he had even more to say:
The call in question had serious implications. With the Clippers ahead by two points, Matt Barnes contested a layup attempt by Reggie Jackson and the ball sailed out of bounds. Though it appeared Jackson touched it last on the replay, Oklahoma City was awarded possession. Chris Paul went on to foul Russell Westbrook while he was inexplicably attempting a game-winning three-pointer, and the rest is history.
Just not for Rivers.
If the Clippers wind up falling to the Thunder in Game 6 or 7, that one moment will be looked at as a pivotal turning point. The Clippers could be up 3-2. They could be one win away from advancing to the Western Conference Finals. Instead, they're facing elimination in Game 6.
Yelling at Bennett was a curious move, though. Rivers can be emotional, but he typically keeps his poise.
What was the point he was trying to get across anyway? Was he sarcastically accusing Oklahoma City of withholding valuable game footage? Or did he just need a verbal punching bag?
"It's pretty rare to see Rivers go this nuts over a call, even as he pointed out how the Clippers should have won that game," Eye on Basketball's Matt Moore wrote. "It's been an emotional rollercoaster wrapped in a whirlwind trapped in a glass case of emotion for Rivers and the Clippers ever since the Donald Sterling fiasco erupted in round one."
Indeed, Rivers and the Clippers have been to hell and back and back to hell again this postseason. Nothing has come easy. Even their victories have been exhausting. They were forced to overcome a 22-point deficit in order to win Game 4.
Things have been insane. That won't change moving forward.
Game 6 is Thursday night. The Clippers' season is on the line. Their response to this latest debacle will mean everything. If they use this as motivation, maybe they force a Game 7. If not, if they come out flat and emotionally deflated, their season will end in a blaze of disappointment.
"That could be a series-defining call, and that's not right," Rivers said, per Spears.
Neither is screaming at Bennett, who had no control over the referees and who should most definitely steer clear of Rivers' warpaths in the future.
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