The Thunder overcame a seven-point deficit in the final 49 seconds to stun the Clippers 105-104 in Game 5 of a Western Conference second-round series on Tuesday. The shocking finish featured a controversial referee decision that left Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers and some of his players fuming, the re-emergence of Kevin Durant after dreadful shooting for most of the night and uncharacteristic miscues from Chris Paul. Here's a sampling of the media reaction to the dramatic conclusion:
• Royce Young, Daily Thunder: It’s been about an hour and a half since the final horn sounded on Game 5, and I’m still sitting here, trying to figure out a way to coherently communicate what I just saw. Here’s what I’ve got: The Thunder won. I don’t know how. I don’t know why. But they won.
• Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times: [The Clippers] truly gave it away. They gave it away with a horrible offense that stopped playing down the stretch, with guys mindlessly throwing up wildly missed jumpers at the end of the shot clock. They gave it away with two terrible [Chris] Paul turnovers and one dumb Paul foul. They gave it away so quickly that all it took was one awful call from the officials to finish them, and that is what happened.
• Berry Tramel, The Oklahoman: Kevin Durant was having the game of his life. The wrong way. Couldn't make a shot. Couldn't find a flow. Couldn't even help his squad all that much. In fact, the Thunder fell apart for the last time when Durant re-entered the game with 8:36 left. Then as some faithless fans hit the Chesapeake Arena aisles and Samsungs all over America were clicked off, Durant's light came on. It usually does. Durant indeed had the game of his life. The good way. Ten points in 186 seconds. Two massive 3-pointers that supplied CPR to the Thunder season. A fast-break layup that somehow, some way cut the Clipper lead to two with 17 seconds left. And you know how it ended. Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles. The Thunder beat the Clippers 105-104 in a game OKC had no business winning. Not when trailing by 13 points with four minutes left. Not when trailing by seven points with 46 seconds left. Not when the Durantula was an ant for most of the biggest game of the Thunder season.
• Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Game 5 will be remembered for the call, the officials’ curious explanation following the replay review and Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers‘ scorching rant of the entire surreal sequence. It will all be replayed and dissected on a continuous loop. For Chris Paul, the call that didn’t go the Clippers’ way with 11.3 seconds left to another unfathomable finish in this heart-stopping Western Conference semifinal series, isn’t what will eat at him for hours on end; isn’t wasn’t what left him in a near-catatonic state in the postgame interview room. Despite early foul trouble in a game in which the whistles blew early and often, Paul engineered a spectacular game for 47 minutes before he so unexpectedly came unglued in the final 49 seconds. Two turnovers, about what he’s averaged in each game in these playoffs, and inexplicably making contact with Russell Westbrook‘s shooting arm from behind the arc with 6.4 seconds left played a leading role in the Clippers’ collapse, a seven-point lead, and a series lead, dashed in 49.2 seconds.
• Marc J. Spears, Yahoo Sports: 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 his 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.
• J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: After the Clippers came back from a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit to snatch Game 4, they repaid the Thunder by coughing up a late lead to give Oklahoma City a chance to close out the series in Game 6. It led to a lot of pounding in the interview room, from Doc Rivers hitting the table to show his anger at losing out on a crucial replay review to Chris Paul banging on the door on his way out after explaining his disastrous finish to the game. It could end up being a pivotal moment not just in this series, but in the way we view the stars at the center of this series. Durant escapes trial by fire for a miserable shooting night thanks to the relentless Russell Westbrook. Paul might have cost himself the chance to get to his first Western Conference finals.
• James Herbert, CBSSports.com: The last 49 seconds of the game were the focus of most of the conversation, and everyone in attendance or watching at home needed a little while to wrap his or her head around what just took place. It would be a shame, however, if what Russell Westbrook did all night ended up getting lost in the madness. After all, he did finish with a game-high 38 points on 11-of-23 shooting, six assists and five rebounds.
• Steve Perrin, Clip Nation:
I do not subscribe to conspiracy theories. I have one basic problem with them -- they require a level of sophistication from the perpetrators that I don't believe they possess. In other words, I've never believed that the NBA and its referees could intentionally and successfully manipulate outcomes of games without people finding out about. If the league has been telling officiating crews for years which team they want to win a game or a series, then members of those crews would have leaked that information by now. Members with more credibility than Tim Donaghy, that is. Basically, I don't think the NBA and officiating crews make preferential calls, not because they're not evil enough, but because they're not smart enough. So I'm at something of a loss to explain what happened in this game.