It got crazy at the end, crazy enough to make you forget how abysmally boring these playoffs have been. Not in San Antonio. Not on a Monday night. Not after a game one beat down. But of course, if you have been watching NBA basketball long enough you knew the Thunder were going to come back with a vengeance in game two. The Spurs played a sublime game on Saturday night. The Thunder played a lousy game. It was a perfect storm. But that was then, and is so far in the rear view mirror it doesn’t even seem part of the same series, all because of one play, one no-call, one fan, one scramble.
The Thunder were up one. Dion Waiters was inbounding the ball. Thirteen seconds left. Let’s list the issues.
Problem #1: Waiters was gifted by a oh-so long count. He should have been called for a five seconds call.
Problem #2: Dion Waiters lost his mind. He wasn’t thinking I am getting the benefit of the doubt on the road with the timekeeper who doesn’t know 7 seconds isn’t 5 seconds so maybe I should just inbound the ball. Waiters decided at that moment to take his elbow and drill it into Ginobli’s chest. You know Manu. He was going to go all Argentinian acting with it and fall back like Waiters hit him with a machete. No call. Nothing.
Problem #3: Manu stepped over the endline, a violation resulting in a technical free throw.
Problem #4: Waiters inbounded the ball as bad as you could inbound it. There was a scramble for it. The Spurs came up with the ball with ten seconds left.
Problem #5: A fan actually tried to keep Stephen Adams from playing defense. He held onto his arm after Adams contested Patty Mills shot and his momentum carried him into the crowd. It was a good contest by Adams because Mills missed the shot, the rebound was a tackle football moment and the clock expired. Not one whistle. Not one call.
C’mon refs. You can’t drill a man because he is guarding you while you are out of bounds. And then the fan…Give him A for enthusiasm but that is crossing the line. Don’t be surprised if in the next day the league cites all the misses in the last few seconds by the refs and by the way, this was an experienced crew with Ken Mauer as the lead.
Mauer said, “On the floor we did not see a foul on the play. However, upon review, we realize and we agree we should have had an offensive foul on the play. It’s a play we’ve never seen before, ever. We should have had an offensive foul on the play.”
Before all this mayhem, it was a usual Thunder game. They came out with energy and desperation. They took a lead and then when Westbrook went to the bench they lost the lead. The Thunder take the most ridiculous shots in crunch time and when Westbrook is not in there their ball movement slows to a crawl. They got lucky in this game because the Spurs weren’t sharp as usual. The Thunder had more rebounds, they played more physical and withstood 41 points by LaMarcus Aldridge in 42 minutes. As is par for the Thunder, they only had 16 assists as their numbing iso game almost cost them again.
Thunder coach Billy Donovan looked ridiculous post game when he refused to acknowledge the controversy and what happened in the last seconds. Not a particular good look. There is fair and there is not fair. We know what we see.
Magic Johnson was outraged, calling it the worst playoff non-call in NBA history. That’s a little bit overly dramatic but Johnson’s point is well taken. It was a huge miss. Did it cost the Spurs the game?
Had a call been made, the Spurs would have gotten the ball out of bounds. But they got the ball via a steal. And they didn’t score.
Manu summed it up perfectly. “I don’t know what type of violation it is-gotta be something. But it’s not the play that decided anything because we got the steal, we got the shot. And it doesn’t matter. It’s over. I’m not going to be able to change it.”
photo via llananba