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Jordan takes blame in loss for 'dumb play' late

LOS ANGELES -- DeAndre Jordan was sitting at his locker, staring blankly across the room as teammates and staff members patted him on the shoulder on the way out.

While everyone else had dressed and left, Jordan was still wearing a towel, trying to make sense of the way the Los Angeles Clippers had just lost to the San Antonio Spurs 111-107 on Tuesday night to fall behind 3-2 in their first-round series.

The game essentially came down to a basket interference call on Jordan as he tipped in a shot by Blake Griffin that looked like it was about to give the Clippers a 109-108 lead with 4.9 seconds left. The basket didn't count, and the Spurs got the ball to seal the game and perhaps the series.

It might have seemed like a familiar ending worthy of a tired punch line for those who have followed Clippers history.

But this season was supposed to be different for the Clippers and Jordan, the longest tenured member of the team.

He had his best game of the postseason on Tuesday with 21 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks, but that was the furthest thing from his mind as he sat alone at his locker.

"I made a dumbass play," Jordan said. "I hit the ball. We did a good job fighting to put us in the situation to go up one, but you can't blame anybody for that but me. I tipped the ball."

It was a play Jordan has made countless times while playing with Griffin over the past five seasons. Griffin drives to the basket for a shot, and Jordan is right underneath the rim to clean it up if he misses, usually with a tip-in or a putback dunk. On Tuesday, it cost the Clippers.

"I was under the basket, so I couldn't really see. I was just trying to make a play on the ball," Jordan said. "It ended up being a dumb play. That's on me."

Jordan took responsibility for the loss the same way Griffin took responsibility for the Clippers' loss in Game 2.

As admirable as it was for Jordan, and Griffin, neither notion is entirely true. The Clippers' defeat on Tuesday was as much on the team as it was in Game 2, when the Spurs found a way to win down the stretch at Staples Center.

While Griffin finished with 30 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in Game 5, he looked completely gassed in the fourth quarter. In the final period, he was 1-for-9 from the field and 0-for-2 from the free-throw line, while also turning the ball over three times.

"I just missed some shots, missed two free throws late. I can't do that," Griffin said. "Some things didn't go our way, but we've got to be better. If I had the answer for why we didn't get over that hump, it probably would have been a lot easier, but we'll look at it and try to improve upon it.

"Down the stretch, everybody is tired. It's a factor, but it's a factor for everybody, so it's not really an advantage or disadvantage for anybody, I don't think."

The Clippers hit just 1-of-14 3-point attempts and missed 16 free throws, with Jordan missing nine. The much-maligned Clippers bench was outscored 48-17; only three reserves played, as compared to six for the Spurs. All those things matter in a one-possession game late, especially when your starters look fatigued from having to play most of the game.

Rivers wasn't in the mood to discuss his bench, largely because he gets asked about its production or lack thereof before and after most games.

"Give me a break," he said. "Our bench didn't shoot the ball well tonight, I'll say that. But I thought overall they played pretty hard. But it's the easy thing [to criticize] is the bench."

More concerning to Rivers than the bench play has been the Clippers' inability to close out two tight home games that they led in the fourth quarter. The same scenario played out last season against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round, as the Clippers lost two home games, including the clincher in Game 6.

Rivers has often told the Clippers that they're going to need to find a way to win a road game in a series, because they might drop a game at home. The Clippers have had no problem doing that, winning a road game in each of the three series that Rivers has coached the Clippers. But winning two playoff games on the road because you give away two close games at home usually is too daunting.

It was for the Clippers last season, and it looks like it will be again this season.

"The two teams have been evenly matched, and it keeps coming down to [the end]," Rivers said. "And they've won two close ones in our building. That would be the most frustrating thing for me, but we'll figure that out, too."

The Clippers don't have a choice at this point, facing elimination on Thursday night in San Antonio.

"It's tough, but the series isn't over," Griffin said. "We've got to be ready to come and play. It's going to be a hostile environment in San Antonio in a closeout game, elimination game, so we've got to be ready to go. Series isn't over, though."