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NBA: Pivotal play 'correctly stood'

And the NBA seemed to do the same, defending the outcome of a play that came with 11.3 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter Tuesday, when it appeared the ball went out of bounds off Reggie Jackson but the Thunder were awarded possession by the referees after video review.

"With 11.3 seconds left in the game, the basketball went out of bounds on the baseline and the referees ruled the ball belonged to the Thunder," the league's president of basketball operations, Rod Thorn, said in a statement Wednesday. "The referees then used instant replay to review the play. In order to reverse the call made on the court, there has to be 'clear and conclusive' evidence.

"Since no replay provided such evidence, the play correctly stood as called with the Thunder retaining possession."

Prior to Thorn issuing the statement, Rivers said he spoke to the league office about the game, but said the content of that conversation was "private."

As of Wednesday evening, the NBA had still not determined whether Rivers would be fined for publicly criticizing the officiating, according to a league source.

Rivers had calmed considerably since his postgame comments when the incensed coach said his team was "robbed" of the victory and dubbed the call that went in favor of the Thunder with 11.3 seconds left a "series-defining play."

The coach chose to put Tuesday's 105-104 loss in the past, saying he would not file a formal protest with the league over the result. The defeat dropped the Clippers into a 3-2 series deficit.

Protests are a rarity in the NBA. They can be filed by a governor, alternative governor or head coach of a team and must be accompanied by a $10,000 check which will be forfeited if the protest is not granted.

During the 2007-08 season, the league granted the Miami Heat's protest to replay the final 51.9 seconds of their game against the Atlanta Hawks because the official scorer incorrectly ruled that Shaquille O'Neal had fouled out of the game. Before that, the league had not granted a protest since 1982.

"I don't ever do that," Rivers said before practice Wednesday. "I've never filed a protest in my life because I don't know what you get for it. You don't get the game back and you can't get (a do-over). It's funny, in Boston a couple times they wanted me to do it. I said, 'No thank you. I'll pass on that.'

"Listen, the one thing I know is no one does anything on purpose," Rivers added. "I don't believe in any of that stuff. So it happens, it happened and we move on."

Before the Clippers were ready to move on, they let the "sting" of the loss that puts their season on the brink of elimination set in, according to Blake Griffin.

First, on the bus ride from the arena to the airport late Tuesday night, Griffin and Jamal Crawford huddled with Chris Paul to try to convince the point guard that the loss wasn't his fault.

"He was visibly upset and I told him that game is not on one guy," said Griffin of Paul, who had two turnovers and fouled Russell Westbrook on a 3-point attempt in the game's final minute. "It's not on him. We made plenty of mistakes down the stretch. We made plenty of mistakes throughout the game that could ultimately change the outcome. So, that idea that it's on him, I understand what he's saying, but it's not on anybody."

The readying process really began on the plane ride from Oklahoma City to L.A. later Tuesday night, when the Clippers held an "impromptu team meeting," according to Rivers.

"Listen, you don't win easy," Rivers said, recalling his message. "You don't win it easy. You may win a game, but we're trying to do something special here and be something special and if you're trying to stand out in any job, it's going to be hard. You're going to face adversity. And you just got to accept that that's part of the process. Yeah, this is hard, because it's supposed to be. That's the only thing I told our guys: What's going on right now is exactly what should happen to win. You have to go through stuff to win. You just got to deal with it."

It's something that his Celtics dealt with in 2008, going to a Game 7 in the first round against the Atlanta Hawks before advancing and another Game 7 in the second round against the Cleveland Cavaliers before eventually taking the title.

"The emotional roller coaster of the playoffs is unbelievable," said Griffin, adding that he could relate to the ride Rivers and the Celtics had in 2008. "I was telling somebody after Game 4, I pretty much experienced every single emotion I have and last night as well. So, it's the first to four for a reason. We're not out of this by any means."

Rivers echoed the same confidence.
"The way we look at it, we have back-to-back elimination games coming up -- Game 6 and Game 7," Rivers said. "And that's how we have to look at it. And we shouldn't look at it as anything with any tension. We should be really be looking forward to it. This should be a lot of fun. We should embrace it. And this is all good."
The three Paul miscues were picked over again before practice Wednesday, however. It began with a play with 13.9 seconds remaining and the Clippers up 104-102 when Paul tried to get fouled attempting a 3-pointer in the backcourt some 75 feet from the hoop and Westbrook stole it from him.

"Assuming that he was going to foul, but that's on me," Paul said. "Doc told me I got in my own way, thinking the game too much. They usually don't even give me that call anyway, so it's probably something I'll never do again."

Then Paul fouled Westbrook while he was launching a shot from long range with 6.4 seconds left.

"You got to be close and you got to contest," Rivers said. "Chris did his job and last night he took a half a step too close."

Finally, Paul lost the ball on the Clippers' final possession with 0.9 seconds left when it appeared his arm was jarred by Jackson, squandering L.A.'s chance at even attempting a game-winning shot.

"No," Paul said when asked if Jackson fouled him. "I didn't even realize Reggie was there until I looked at the film and I felt like I lost it."

Add it all up, and the Clippers find themselves in a must-win situation on Thursday.

"The crazy part about the game is that if any of those things would have happened right just one time, we win the game," Rivers said. "Heck, even if the officials had called a foul (on Matt Barnes) on the last play, that would have helped us more than the way it turned out. So, it was one of those games. But again, after five games, somebody was going to be up 3-2. Unfortunately it's not us, but we're good with that. We'll be ready."

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NBA: Chicago is bullish on road trip

The Chicago Bulls’ season-high seven-game road trip had all the makings of a disaster after they opened with losses to a pair of W bingo online apuestas futbol estern Conference also-rans. Four games later, it’s looking like the spark that’s turned the season around. The Bulls try to close the trip with a fifth straight win Friday night against the New Orleans Hornets, who look to protect one of the West’s best home records upon returning from their own successful road swing. The Hornets are the 4-point favorite at, but 70% of bettors prefer the piping-hot Bulls.

Chicago (22-22, 21-21-2 ATS) has won four in a row for the third time since Christmas, but this latest run is easily the most surprising. The Bulls were 4-15 on the road after losses to Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers to open this trip, but they’ve knocked off four consecutive playoff contenders.

Coach Vinny Del Negro (who was rumored to be almost fired right after Christmas) has seen his team shoot 50.6 percent from the floor while holding opponents to 39.4 percent, and its most impressive defensive effort came Wednesday in Oklahoma City. Chicago limited the Thunder to 36.9 percent shooting, hounding Kevin Durant into a 7-for-19 effort and leaving with a 96-86 win. The Bulls win made them 7-0 ATS in road games playing against team with a 51 to 60 percent win percentage this season and tonight offers another such opportunity.

Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas keyed a 96-85 win over New Orleans (25-20, 22-23 ATS) on Dec. 26 at the United Center. Noah had 17 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks, while Thomas had 21 points and nine boards off the bench. Chicago, which has followed its previous four-game win streaks with at least two straight losses, hasn’t won five in a row on the road since concluding the 2005-06 season on a six-game run. The Bulls are 17-6 ATS playing against a team with a winning record in the second half of the season over the last two years.

The Hornets have won 16 of 20 at home (10-10 ATS), where they return following an impressive trip. New Orleans closed with a third victory in four games - its only loss coming in overtime to Denver on Saturday - after Chris Paul had 38 points in a 123-110 win over Golden State on Wednesday. The Hornets were 6-15 and 9-12 ATS on the road heading into the trip. “This was a big trip for us. We won in some tough venues,” said Paul, who averaged 27.8 points on 58.8 percent shooting. “Everyone knows the road has been our Achilles’ heel so far.”

The play of Paul’s new backcourt mate has also been critical. Rookie Marcus Thornton averaged 18.5 points in the final two games of the trip, starting after New Orleans shipped Devin Brown to the Bulls for backup center Aaron Gray on Monday. Brown, who has yet to play for the Bulls, led New Orleans with 22 points in Chicago last month.

The Hornets’ fortunes Friday, though, may depend on David West. The two-time All-Star, scoring 17.7 points per game, has averaged 11.0 in the last two losses to the Bulls and his team is 3-5 in last eight meetings with the Bulls with two covers.

New Orleans is a four-point favorite with total of 198 at and is 24-9 ATS in home games revenging a same season loss vs. opponent and is 8-1 UNDER at home trying to get even with same team off a road loss. Despite the four consecutive road upsets, normally Chicago doesn’t set up very well in a spot like this with 12-26 ATS record off an upset win as an underdog over the last three seasons. They are 9-0 OVER as visiting dogs off the upset surprise win by 10 points or more.