The closing seconds of Thursday night's nationally televised contest between the Dallas Mavericks and the Oklahoma City Thunder reminded us that everyone slips up sometimes. Even carefully chosen golden boy, blog superstar and reigning NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant(notes).
After rebounding a Dallas miss with Oklahoma City leading 99-92 and the mere formality of 17.6 seconds left to tick away before a Thunder victory, Durant dribbled the ball into the frontcourt. The nightly closing-time custom began — the Mavs abandoned their defensive crouches, the Thunder stopped looking for offense and everyone commenced awkwardly milling about, waiting for the buzzer to sound and the clock to show all zeroes.
[Rewind video: NFL coach doesn't realize game is over]
Having picked up his dribble near the Dallas bench as the sands trickled through the hourglass, Durant turned and handed the ball to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle. Problem is, the buzzer hadn't sounded yet and the clock didn't show all zeroes. There were still eight seconds left in the game when Durant made the handoff. (Another 1.1 seconds ticked off the game clock before play was stopped.)
As a result, the refs blew their whistles, calling Durant for turning the ball over — which he inarguably did, both in a strictly literal sense and in a "rules of basketball" context — and awarded the ball to the Mavs. Of course, DeShawn Stevenson(notes), emboldened by the spirits of Abraham Lincoln and a backward Pittsburgh Pirates logo, then promptly drained his third 3-pointer of the game's final 67 seconds to cement a 99-95 final score.
It was a weird sequence, to be sure — even without DeShawn Stevenson's involvement, which clearly acts as an anweirdbolic steroid in almost any situation — and made for some decently sweet laughs.
Durant can certainly be forgiven for having a braincramp of no real consequence (I mean, hey, OKC still covered), but frankly, I'm not so sure that he acted totally alone and without prompting. Never underestimate the on-court cunning, beguiling charms and defensive acumen of Rick Carlisle.
It doesn't seem outside the realm of possibility that Carlisle saw a distracted youngster, hummed a quick siren song in the Durantula's ear and put the Texas product under his spell, his fiendish gaze set on extending the game by procuring an additional possession that would enable his throat-tattooed foul familiar to drain another triple. Hence Durant's stupefaction after the whistle blows — it's as if he's been awoken from a brief but dark trance. Curious, indeed.
I know the NBA's long had a very public anti-sorcery stance and, as such, couldn't very well laud Carlisle's dip into the black arts to mesmerize Durant. But while KD picking Jason Terry's pocket and coasting for an easy bucket was nice and all, anyone paying attention knows that this was the real Steal of the Night. Shrewd move, Rick. Can't blame you for trying, right?
Video courtesy of GDSeasonClips.
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- Rick Carlisle