Eric Patten of the Clippers' official team site passed along word of the punishment:
NBA announces Doc Rivers has been fined $25,000 for public criticism of the officiating— Eric Patten (@EricPatten) May 15, 2014
Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports and Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated provide Rivers' comments on the fine:
Doc on his fined words - "it was needed to be said. It's the truth." Doc said two employees offered to pay $100 each on $25k fine.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) May 16, 2014
Doc on the fine: "Rare time you actually earned one."— Lee Jenkins (@SI_LeeJenkins) May 16, 2014
The point of contention came amid a furious comeback by the Thunder. Oklahoma City came back from seven down with less than a minute to go to grab a 3-2 series lead. It completely changed the complexion of the series as it heads back to Los Angeles for Game 6 Thursday.
Rivers believes the comeback would have been prevented if the officials didn't make an error with 11 seconds left. That's when the ball seemed to go out of bounds off Reggie Jackson, which would have given the Clippers possession with a two-point lead.
Instead, the officials reviewed the play and gave the ball to Oklahoma City. The Thunder proceeded to finish off the amazing rally and prevented the Clippers from going home with a chance to close out the series.
After the game, Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com passed along comments from Rivers about the call. He believed the officials gave the Thunder possession because it appeared they missed a foul call on Matt Barnes, which caused Jackson to lose the ball:
It was our ball. Everybody knows it was our ball. I think the bottom line is they thought it was a foul and they made up for it. Then, in my opinion, let's take away replay. Let's take away the replay system because that's our ball, we win the game and we got robbed because of that call. It's clear.
Everyone in the arena saw it. That's why everybody was shocked when they said 'Oklahoma City.' That was our ball whether it was a foul or not, and it was, but they didn't call it.
Given the league's low tolerance for anybody making negative comments about the officiating in public, Rivers probably knew those remarks would cost him. But he likely felt the need to speak out anyway because it was a potentially series-changing decision.
Although the replays shown on television back up Rivers' claims, the ball was originally awarded to Oklahoma City. Based on the system, that meant the review would have to clearly show the ball went off the Thunder to change the call.
Markazi's report also included comments from referee Tony Brothers, who said the replays they were shown weren't clear enough for a reversal:
When the ball goes out of bounds, the ball was awarded to Oklahoma City. We go review the play. We saw two replays. The two replays we saw were from the overhead camera showing down, and the one from under the basket showing the same angle but from a different view. And from those two replays, it was inconclusive as to who the ball went out of bounds off of. When it's inconclusive, we have to go with the call that was on the floor.
Despite that explanation, Rivers was more concerned about getting his point across than the punishment that followed. Bill Reiter of Fox Sports 1 thinks it was the right move on the coach's part:
The NBA just announced Doc Rivers has been fined $25K for his criticism of the officials. Money well spent. Loved the passion/fire there.— Bill Reiter (@foxsportsreiter) May 15, 2014
Which team will win Game 6 on Thursday?
Now comes the tough part for Rivers and his players. They must find a way to overcome the disappointment of blowing the lead as well as the frustration of what they believe was an obvious blown call to regroup for Game 6.
They must lean on the fact that they were the better team for a majority of the first 47 minutes in Game 5. If they can play that way again on Thursday night, there's a good chance for them to level the series and force a deciding Game 7.
Getting over that mental hurdle is easier said than done, though. The Thunder must try to capitalize on that early in the first elimination game of the series.