The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the San Antonio Spurs Monday night in a Game 2 that may be remembered for one of the wildest finishes the NBA has ever seen.
The Spurs clawed back from five down in the final minute to get within one point with 13.5 seconds remaining.
The Thunder were inbounding the ball from the sidelines, with the Spurs prepared to foul when the Thunder got the ball. Thunder guard Dion Waiters threw a wild pass that was stolen by the Spurs. The Spurs then missed a game-winning three-pointer, and the Thunder escaped with the win.
However, replays showed the referees missed Waiters shove Manu Ginobili on the inbounds pass to create room to throw a pass. It should have been called a foul, which would have given the ball back to the Spurs, thus negating the crazy finish that ensued.
Here’s the play:
And the replay, which shows Waiters’ shove.
As can be heard on the replay, TNT analyst and former NBA player Chris Webber was irate with the missed call.
“That was an offensive foul, a blatant offensive foul,” Webber said. “It was an offensive foul, and if I’m Ginobili, if I am the Spurs, I am upset, too. It was there for everyone to deal with, it was right there. That was an offensive foul.”
However, Webber then acknowledged something that seems to be pervading throughout the NBA world — nobody has seen a play like that, and nobody knows what the call is.
“You can’t push somebody from out of bounds! I’ve never seen that before,” Webber said.
After the game, Ginobili was also confused by the play, telling reporters:
“It’s a very awkward play. It doesn’t happen very often, so, I guess, [the refs] didn’t see it.”
“I don’t know what it is, what type of violation it is. It’s gotta be something. But again, it’s not that play that decided anything. Because we got the steal, we got a shot, and got an offensive rebound, so, I really don’t know, I’ve never seen anything, a play like that. I don’t know what should have been called, or if it should have been called anything.”
Gregg Popovich was brief after the game, saying to reporters, “Something certainly happened on the sideline, I thought.”
TNT’s “Inside the NBA” crew was similarly baffled by the play. Charles Barkley said, “I’ve been in the NBA for 30 years and I’ve never seen that.”
“Me either. Ever,” Shaquille O’Neal responded.
Barkley continued, “We’re sitting here arguing the last 20 minutes, like, what is the official call? Chris Webber says it’s an offensive foul, I say it’s a violation also.” Kenny Smith echoed the sentiment while O’Neal said he believed there should have been a technical foul on the play.
The confusion is noteworthy given the combined 35 years of playing experience between the three former players.
The confusion also raises questions about what should have happened. A simple foul might have returned the ball to the Spurs. They could have called timeout, then set up a play and gotten an even better shot. It also could have set up free throws, then returned the ball to the Spurs, which would have almost assured a tied game, if not a Spurs win.
Perhaps more amazing, even the referees didn’t know what the call was! After the game, officiating crew chief Ken Mauer released a statement saying, “Upon review we realise and we agree that we should have had an offensive foul on the play. It’s a play that we have never seen before, ever.”
Mauer continued, saying it would have been an offensive foul, giving the Spurs possession.
Magic Johnson thought it was a no-call of historic proportions.
Waiters foul on Ginobili was the worst missed call in playoff history.
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) May 3, 2016
However, as Ginobili noted, this was hardly the make-or-break play in the game. CBS’s Zach Harper broke down the final sequence, noting a whopping eight fouls or infractions that could have been called in the final seconds. This includes Ginobili stepping over the sideline, Kawhi Leonard holding Russell Westbrook, Waiters jumping to throw the inbounds pass, Danny Green fouling Kevin Durant on the pass, Serge Ibaka fouling LaMarcus Aldridge on the offensive rebound, and Steven Adams being grabbed by a fan!
Again, it’s not that Waiters’ shove changed the game — it’s just the most noticeable infraction. It’s not a great look for the NBA to have an officiating controversy around perhaps its biggest second-round series, but nonetheless, this is a game we could be talking about for a long time going forward.
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