The Los Angeles Clippers dropped Game 5 of their first-round playoff series at home to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, 96-92, falling to a 3-2 deficit with a must-win Game 6 coming up on the road in Utah. Chris Paul knew that better than anyone and had already intimated that his team’s back was against the wall.
So when a reporter asked the nine-time All-Star if the Clippers would indeed force a Game 7 and be back at the Staples Center to fight for a second-round appearance, Paul nearly embarrassed him, responding the only way he knew how: “What?”
This has been a hell of a series for postgame press conferences. pic.twitter.com/s6xvE1kOTQ
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) April 26, 2017
“What you think?” an agitated Paul said, when asked about his level of confidence of forcing a Game 7. “I’m on the team. What you want me to say, no, it’s over? That’s what you want to hear? Yes. Come on, man. You’ve been doing this long enough. Seriously, right?”
When asked to expand upon his answer, Paul responded: “No, I don’t know. Everybody in here laughing for a reason. Come on, man.”
If any off-court moments have gleamed through this year’s playoffs, it’s been the postgame press conference. And we’ve had some crazy ones through just the first round.
Sticking with the theme of players clashing with reporters, Russell Westbrook got into it with one who asked about the difference in the Thunder’s performance with and without the MVP frontrunner on the floor.
Russell Westbrook goes off on reporter who asks about team's play while he's on the bench pic.twitter.com/oikTf0GxCj
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) April 23, 2017
There was also Grizzlies coach David Fizdale, who was fined $30,000 for ripping the officiating crew his team’s Game 2 loss to the Spurs. Fizdale was irate over the disparity in foul calls, with Kawhi Leonard attempting four more free throws than Memphis as a whole.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) April 18, 2017
And of course, there are the players themselves who have called each other out on the podium.
Jimmy Butler blasted Celtics’ guard Marcus Smart, questioning his toughness, while Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley publicly took shots at each other after the Rockets eliminated the Thunder on Tuesday.
Jimmy Butler ethers Marcus Smart: "He's a great actor. Acting tough … he's not about that life." pic.twitter.com/1SDKOw7tYF
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) April 24, 2017
Russell Westbrook fires back at Patrick Beverley pic.twitter.com/JdNYxWwhDU
— NBA RETWEET (@RTNBA) April 26, 2017
Patrick Beverley: "[Russ] looked up and said, 'No one can guard me, I got 40 points.' I'm like, that's nice, you took 34 shots to get it." pic.twitter.com/htl10439gl
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) April 26, 2017
Paul was right to call that reporter out.
Of course he’s going to be back in Los Angeles for Game 7. Any other answer is a concession of defeat, and that’s not in his blood by a long shot.
Paul’s been in a 3-2 hole once before. The Clippers were in a similar position against the San Antonio Spurs in the 2015 playoffs, but CP3 helped rattle off two straight wins to advance to the second round.
Los Angeles also trailed Portland 3-2 last season, but that was without both Paul and Blake Griffin, who were out with injuries.
But after those scathing comments on the podium, it might be the reporter who’s got to dig himself out of a hole this time around.