Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro and forward Ryan Gomes protest a flagrant… (John Bazemore / Associated…)
Reporting from Atlanta — Weird, wild and, ultimately, wasteful.
The Clippers squandered an effective performance from Ike Diogu off the bench as well as a gritty double-double effort from an injured Baron Davis in losing to the Atlanta Hawks, 101-100, on Friday night at Philips Arena.
The Hawks survived a fourth-quarter rally by the Clippers when Al Horford made two free throws with 0.6 remaining after Blake Griffin was given a flagrant foul off a hard collision in the air.
That's the most basic description.
The more elaborate version left the Clippers (19-30) fuming about what they perceived as two bad officiating decisions, their coach angered and hoarse after they lost for the 16th time in 19 road games. Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro may have set a record for stating that the call on Griffin was incorrect, saying so about five times in 20 seconds.
That didn't even include the jump-ball ruling with 4.2 seconds remaining when the officials could not determine possession after a frenzied scramble between the Clippers' Randy Foye and the Hawks' Joe Johnson
The Clippers thought the ball glanced off Johnson's leg, and then the Griffin flagrant foul call ratcheted up tensions even more.
"No, it wasn't a flagrant foul," Del Negro said. "He was going for the basketball. It was not a flagrant foul. It should not have been called. No, that was not a flagrant foul. I mean, he was trying to block the ball. He wasn't going for his body. He went for the ball."
The result of the meeting of Griffin and Horford, both All-Stars, looked like the end of a boxing match with both fighters down on the canvas. Horford went down hard and stayed down for several minutes, as did Griffin.
"I actually thought I was going to be able to turn the corner and he came in kind of late and I just got hit," Horford said. "It happened so fast, I did not have time to gather myself….It was just hard getting up because my leg felt weak."
Said Atlanta Coach Larry Drew: "When I say Al is a warrior, you know I mean that in every sense of the word. You're practically going to have to wheel him off the floor for him not to shoot the free throws."
If it had been simply a foul, the Clippers would have had the ball with 0.6 remaining. With the flagrant, the Hawks got the ball and were able to run out the clock.
This was the first flagrant foul of Griffin's career, and a rare first he would like to forget, coming a day after he was named to the All-Star team. He also had his 41st double-double of the season, finishing with 19 points, 11 rebounds and four turnovers.
Said Griffin: "I thought I went straight up. Our bodies hit in the air and my hands were straight up. His arms were up going for the ball….I wasn't trying to hurt him at all. I just went for the ball. It was a last-second shot. He had a wide-open dunk."
Griffin criticized himself and praised his teammates, especially Davis, who had 22 points, 13 assists and four steals. Diogu had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Jamal Crawford had 34 points off the bench for the Hawks, and Horford added 23.
"It's one of those games where you just feel bad," Griffin said. "The way I played, I didn't really help my teammates tonight. I've got to do a better job."
Davis said his sore back was not good, but adrenaline took over.
"I knew the moves I could make, and I knew what I could do with the ball," he said. "I just had a good bounce. That allowed me to get them off-balance a lot and get to the hole."