LOS ANGELES -- Until he was ejected with 6:02 to go in Wednesday's game against the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers point guard Mo Williams was having one of his better games in a Clippers uniform, with 19 points and five assists.
He started out on fire in the first quarter, scoring the Clips' first nine points and boosting L.A. to a 13-point lead at one point. And he kept it up throughout the game with aggressive drives that got him to the free throw line nine times and crisp passing to Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon.
But when Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki went up for a shot with the Clippers down nine in the fourth and Williams was whistled for a shooting foul, he had a few words for the referee and was quickly called for a technical -- and then one more 20 seconds later to earn himself a ticket to the locker room.
The Clippers (29-46) made a brief run from there -- getting the margin as close as five by virtue of a couple of fancy coast-to-coast drives from Griffin -- but they clearly missed Williams in the final half-dozen minutes of an eventual 106-100 loss to the Mavs.
"It always hurts," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said of Williams getting ejected at a key point in the contest. "Mo got us off to a really good start, got us going early in the first quarter, really aggressive on the break.
"It was just unfortunate with a couple calls late in the game."
Del Negro always stresses to his young team -- not a single Clipper was born before 1980 -- the importance of giving way to the officials in a game in key circumstances, of making your point known and then being done with it.
In that sequence, Williams did none of that.
"You gotta handle the referees," Del Negro said. "You gotta handle the calls.
"You gotta keep your composure."
Williams, 28, left the locker room before the media was allowed in it Wednesday, but his teammates were quick to defend his play and his actions.
"When he's on, he's on -- and he started the game hot and just carried throughout," said Griffin, who finished with 25 points and 17 rebounds and set the Clippers' franchise rookie record for most points in a season. "That's what we needed, so it was great to have him do that.
"Unfortunately, he had to come back here a little early."
It didn't look as if Williams was that vehement in talking to the official after the call, but it was more of a quantity-over-quality case. He stayed near the scorer's table for 30 seconds with his mouth moving the entire take.
"That's all it takes sometimes," guard Randy Foye said. "But everybody's human, everybody makes mistakes, and you can't just go crazy on someone for one mistake."
Gordon, who had one of his worst shooting games in recent memory, said it wasn't just Williams' absence that hurt the Clippers in the final minutes -- it was the aftermath of the calls as well. Griffin had been assessed a technical 40 seconds before Williams was, and that made for a different type of game in the final six minutes.
"We were close, but we lost control of the game when we had all of those technical fouls," said Gordon, who had 15 points on 4-of-18 shooting. "After you get that many techs, it spreads the game apart, and it's hard to come back when it comes down to possessions like that and they're already up."
The Mavs were already up and they stayed up, using a dagger JJ Barea 3-pointer to kill L.A.'s momentum after the Clips reduced the margin to five from a game-high 16 in the fourth. So Dallas, which will play the Lakers on Thursday in a back-to-back, finished the season with a four-game sweep of the Clippers.
Del Negro took the opportunity to preach a bit on his team's interaction with referees.
"I think at times we get caught up too much in the officials," he said Wednesday. "It takes us out of our game a little bit, and you can't let that happen.
"You gotta make your point known and then you gotta move on and get back on defense."