PORTLAND, Ore.--With so much individual talent in the Western Conference and so many teams with realistic title aspirations, the line between winning and losing is so slim.
For the second night in a row, the Los Angeles Clippers, despite playing well for long stretches, fell on the wrong side of that line.
The Clippers couldn't pull through during an intense 116-112 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday despite big games from Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
After a big-time comeback, it seemed like the Clippers were going to sneak out of Portland with a win in regulation.
Paul scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, including three huge jumpers to put the Clippers up by three in the final 10 seconds. But with the Clippers needing one final stop, Portland's Nicolos Batum came around a double screen to tie the score with a 3-point shot from the top of the key.
Paul had a chance to win in regulation, but his 17-foot jumper rimmed in and out.
Paul finished with 34 points and 16 assists.
While Paul closed strong, he had plenty of help from Griffin along the way.
Griffin, who recovered from early foul trouble, had another monster game, scoring 35 points to go with 11 rebounds. It was his fourth straight 20-10 game.
DeAndre Jordan was also terrific, as he pulled down 19 rebounds before fouling out in overtime.
While they didn't have the star power, the Trail Blazers did have tremendous offensive balance.
Portland put all five starters in double figures, led by LaMarcus Aldridge's 32. Aldridge scored 7 in overtime, drilling the same turnaround jumper multiple times in the final five minutes.
The Clippers, who were down by 12, needed big fourth quarters from Paul and Jamal Crawford to erase Portland's lead. They combined to score 19 of the teams 28 fourth-quarter points.
Refs erred on Griffin call
The Clippers were right. Blake Griffin, it turns out, didn't deserve to be called for his second technical foul Wednesday against Golden State. He didn't deserve to be ejected from the game and forced to watch his team lose, 105-103, to the Warriors.
Thursday, the NBA announced Griffin's second technical foul should've been merely a common foul.
"It doesn't do anything for me," Coach Doc Rivers said Thursday. "It's a human game. I'd love to fight it and argue it and let's play that fourth quarter again with Blake, but you can't. It just happens. It absolutely had an impact on the game, but there's nothing we can do about it."
Griffin's teammate, Darren Collison, said word from the league doesn't ease the frustration from Wednesday's loss. In fact, it does the opposite.
"It doesn't do us any good. It makes it even worse," Collison said. "It's like, man, what if they would've done their job? I mean, I know everyone makes mistakes, but it's tough."
Rivers said he didn't call the league asking for the ejection to be reviewed. He said he figured it was obvious enough.
Sunday, Matt Barnes was ejected from the Clippers' victory over Minnesota for a flagrant-2 foul. The league later announced it was the wrong call and downgraded the play to a flagrant-1. With the same type of thing happening Wednesday, Rivers said jokingly that the team was stuck in a "bad ejection rut."
"We'll get out of it. It happens," Rivers said. "Matt, they said, shouldn't have been thrown out. Blake shouldn't have been thrown out.
"It would be nice to have those players on the floor for us, but we can't get either one back. You have to keep learning and keep getting better as a group."
Barnes said it is frustrating.
"You appreciate the fact that they realize they made a mistake, but the mistakes are affecting the outcomes of games," he said. "You would think with three refs and instant replay, they'd be able to get the situation right. But, that's not always the case."
Barnes reiterated his opinion that the league's evaluations of its officials should be made public.
"I think every move we make is public record," he said. "The referees are just as big a part of the NBA as the players are. So, if all of our stats and our life is always visible, the grading process should be visible for the refs for the public to see and have an understanding of what's going on.
Rivers said he doesn't mind seeing his team go through some tough times.
"I think this will make us better," he said. "I think adversity is good. Let's not have much more, but, listen, if this stuff happens and we can play games and win games through it, this has to be good for our basketball team."
While tempers might've been heated after Wednesday's loss, Stephen Jackson made the night of one Oracle Arena employee a lot more memorable. Jackson gave her the Samsung tablet the NBA had given to all the players who participated in Christmas games. ...
Rookie Reggie Bullock has begun running on his sprained left ankle, and he said he hopes to be ready to play in a week.
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