The Oklahoma City Thunder were 13.5 seconds away from tying their NBA playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs at one game apiece Monday night. All the Thunder had to do was inbound the ball cleanly, maybe make a couple foul shots for insurance and it would be as if their 32-point loss to the Spurs in Game 1 never happened.
Well, the Thunder did end up getting the desired result, beating the Spurs, 98-97, in San Antonio, but there was nothing simple about those final 13.5 seconds.
Oklahoma City’s Dion Waiters could be seen on TV replays using his elbow to make contact with San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili in order to make the inbound pass.
“I was trying to pressure the ball, and he kind of created room with his elbow,” Ginobli said. “It’s a very awkward play. It doesn’t happen very often. So I guess [the officials] didn’t see it.”
Referee Ken Mauer said after the game that’s exactly what happened.
“On the floor, we did not see a foul on the play,” Mauer said. “However, upon review we realize 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, but we feel we should have had an offensive foul on Waiters.”
Waiters said he’s not sure what happened with his elbow -- “I’m in the game, man, I don’t really know what’s really going on” -- but he does think there was another no-call, this one on Ginobli, on the same play.
They most certainly did. Waiters managed to get the ball to Kevin Durant, who was immediately stripped by by Danny Green, who may have gotten away with a foul on the play. San Antonio’s Patty Mills missed a wide-open three-pointer, leading to a mad scramble under the rim.
Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams was unable to help his team during those final few seconds. He fell out of bounds while defending Mills’ shot and was prevented from returning to the action when a fan held him by the arm.
Still, the Thunder came out on top after San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge couldn’t hold on to the rebound. Aldridge suggested after the game that more fouls occurred under the rim during the final sequence.
“I thought I had the ball," Aldridge said. “I thought [Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka] had a good chunk of my jersey. I thought there were some things happening that maybe shouldn’t have happened. But it’s over now. You can’t keep harping on it.”