So, that finish to Game 2 between the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder was totally insane, huh? In case you somehow missed it, let's revisit the madness one more time: [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball] After Dion Waiters' forearm shiver to the chest of Manu Ginobili created enough space to inbound the basketball, allowing one of the most ridiculous and crazy sequences in recent NBA memory to unfold, a great many of us tried to figure out what the hell we had just watched, what the hell was and wasn't called, and what the hell should and shouldn't have been called. "I don't know what it is, to tell you the truth, what type of violation that is," Ginobili said after the game. "It's got to be something." As it turns out, we weren't the only ones confused by what we witnessed. After lead official Ken Mauer told a pool reporter post-game that "it's a play we have never seen before, ever, but we feel like we should have had an offensive foul on Waiters," the National Basketball Referees Association — the union that represents NBA referees — doubled down on the dumbfoundedness on Tuesday afternoon: The end of game inbound foul in #OKCvsSAS was one we've never seen before & we missed it. We'll incorporate this in training moving forward. — NBA Referees (@OfficialNBARefs) May 3, 2016 In sum: "Yeah, we didn't have any idea what to do, either." It's nice to know that we're not alone. After the zebras acknowledged they'd biffed the Waiters call, we wondered just how many other infractions would be recognized as missed when the NBA released the most eagerly anticipated "Last Two Minutes" report in league history later Tuesday. Well, the results are in , and it's got four more whoopsies for a total of five incorrect no-calls in the final 13.5 seconds:
Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals between the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder was a huge shock for the extent to which the hosts dominated in a series most expected to be extremely close. Game 2 hewed closer to what most analysts thought would transpire, but it ended up just as surprising for the wild events of the final few seconds. It's best to start with that finish, because it's sure to be a point of discussion in the run-up to Friday's Game 3 and perhaps an incident spoken of for years to come. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball] Down 98-94 with 18 seconds remaining, the Spurs caught a major break when Serge Ibaka fouled LaMarcus Aldridge on a three-point attempt five seconds into the possession. Aldridge nailed all three attempts to cut the margin to one point, although the Thunder still looked in good shape with a chance to go back up three points after free throws. Billy Donovan called his team's final timeout to advance the ball for the ensuing inbound pass, and everything looked set to play out as a fairly normal late-game scenario. Then all hell broke loose. Dion Waiters struggled to get the ball in against pressure from Manu Ginobili and finally lobbed a high-arcing pass for Kevin Durant, who lost his footing first and the ball second for a Danny Green steal. The Spurs had a 3-on-2 break that looked likely to finish in a go-ahead basket, but it was not to be: The scramble for the ball in the aftermath of Patty Mills's three ate up the final seconds to help the Thunder grab a 98-97 win that evens up the series at 1-1. It was just the second loss for the Spurs in 45 games at the AT&T Center this season and registers as particularly incredible given their dominance in Saturday's Game 1. Those were secondary concerns right after the buzzer, though, because all anyone wanted to talk about was Waiters's interaction with Ginobili right before his pass to Durant. As TNT commentator Chris Webber immediately exclaimed and replays showed, Waiters elbowed Ginobili near the top of his chest to create space. There are replays in the video above, but here's another look: This... is not legal. pic.twitter.com/J7lW3ZfKjT — Deadspin (@Deadspin) May 3, 2016 I have watched lots of basketball in my life and never seen a player push an opponent in this manner to get space for an inbound pass. Lead official Ken Mauer said the same and believed a foul should have been called if someone had seen it: Lead referee Ken Mauer said a foul should've been called on Waiters. He also says he's never seen that play before. pic.twitter.com/LjWxEhCyJB — SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 3, 2016 To be fair, the sideline view of the incident shows that Ginobili stepped on the sideline, which is a violation by the rulebook: Obviously Waiters can't shove Ginobili, but Ginobili can't go over the line either. pic.twitter.com/9SY1UO8FLH — Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) May 3, 2016 Waiters agreed: Dion Waiters sitting at his locker, scrolling through his phone postgame: "He stepped on the line anyway" — Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) May 3, 2016 On the other hand, it's tough to argue that shoving an opponent is a suitable response to that infraction. Ginobili and others have stretched the rules in this fashion many times before without such a response. A few of the involved parties seemed confused, too — Gregg Popovich responded to a press-conference question by saying "something certainly happened" (perhaps to avoid a fine), Billy Donovan played dumb, and Ginobili said something wrong had occurred but didn't know exactly what kind of whistle should have blown on Waiters. (The rules state it should be a turnover on Waiters and perhaps also a technical foul for unnecessary contact, though the latter is up to the referees.) What seems certain is that this play will be discussed at least until Friday's Game 3 and will receive some kind of response from the league. That official answer might not involve a fine or suspension for Waiters — it could just be a note in the "Last Two Minutes" officiating report — but there will be something. What we know for sure is that the Thunder's series-tying win will not be reversed. Ginobili seemed most focused on that fact, specifically lamenting that he and his teammates had not taken advantage of the turnover that followed Waiters's curious action. He's probably right to note that San Antonio mistake, because we've grown accustomed to the Spurs succeeding in moments like this one. Just look at the scoring chance they had: the Spurs obviously got shafted in a weird way but I can't shake the thought that they had OKC in *this* position pic.twitter.com/i6v1v8neIs — adam figman (@afigman) May 3, 2016 On the other side, the Thunder should feel relieved that they escaped Monday night with the win. A team known for late-game execution errors made several crucial mistakes in the final 20 seconds — some called, some not called — and very easily could have handed the Spurs a 2-0 lead. Instead, the OKC win gives them home-court advantage and new life in a series that began Saturday with an overwhelming performance by San Antonio. It looked clear early that Game 2 would be very different, in part because the Spurs offense looked decidedly less crisp in the minutes following tipoff. Saturday's 43-point first quarter was followed by 21 in Monday's opening period, although that figure alone does not communicate the Spurs' early struggles. They began the game making just one of 13 field goal attempts, a very poor conversion rate caused by both their own decision-making and a much-improved effort from the Thunder. OKC's energy boost also appeared at the offensive end, especially as evidenced by the play of Russell Westbrook. The hyper-athletic point guard was stifled by Kawhi Leonard and several others in Game 1, but he returned with a clear attack mindset and a willingness to create plays when none presented themselves. He put up 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the first quarter to announce himself as a matchup problem for the Spurs. He was the biggest reason OKC held a 29-21 lead after one quarter. Unfortunately for the Thunder, the Spurs bounced back fairly quickly and took their first lead since 2-1 a little more than five minutes into the second quarter. OKC held strong and managed to build up a 56-53 lead at halftime, but San Antonio's ability to get back into the game clarified a few keys to the series that will matter greatly as the action shifts locations for Game 3. The first was one of the big stories of Game 1, as well — that LaMarcus Aldridge is serious matchup problem for Serge Ibaka and anyone else who tries to check him. It turns out that Aldridge's incredible Game 1 performance of 38 points on 18-of-23 shooting was not an outlier — he was arguably better in Game 2 in scoring 41 points on 15-of-21 from the field and 10-of-10 from the line. Aldridge was particularly effective in the second quarter to put up 22 points on 9-of-11 FG by halftime, but he also adjusted to increased double-teams after the break and managed to score in a variety of ways. Ibaka often succeeds as a defender who can follow forwards onto the perimeter and into the paint, but he has struggled to combat Aldridge's post-up game and mid-range shooting. This has been the most impressive two-game stretch for the five-time All-Star since he decimated the Houston Rockets in the first two games of their 2014 first-round series. The other issue for the Thunder is that their bench-heavy lineups look increasingly difficult to justify. OKC's reserve quartet of Enes Kanter (19 minutes), Anthony Morrow (15 minutes), Dion Waiters (25 minutes), and Cameron Payne (seven minutes) all finished with plus-minuses of minus-11 or worse, and San Antonio took clear control of the contest whenever a majority of the starters (and especially Westbrook) sat. It's not clear that Billy Donovan has a good solution to this problem, but he might need to extend the minutes of his best players to win the series. On the plus side, Westbrook and Durant are good enough that the Thunder can commit a number of mistakes and still find themselves in a position to win. The former was especially great on Monday, finishing with 29 points on 11-of-25 shooting, 10 assists, seven rebounds, two steals, a block, and three turnovers (including none in the second half). This was the sort of performance most expected from Westbrook before Game 1 — he impressed himself upon the action and ensured that the Thunder would have an option every time down the court. Durant was not quite as insistent as Westbrook — who is? — but he was also very good with 28 points on 11-of-19 shooting, seven rebounds, and four assists. As ever, it looked likely that the Thunder could have created more open shots, played one-on-one less often (16 assists), and made better decisions (18 turnovers). However, this is how they play, and it tends to work often enough that criticism is often a matter of personal taste more than of the quality of the results. It looks increasingly likely that the Thunder will have to rely on big games from Westbrook and Durant, strong all-around contributions from Serge Ibaka, points and rebounds from Kanter, and steady play from Steven Adams to win games against the Spurs. The calculus can differ from game-to-game — Adams was easily the third-best player in blue on Monday, with 12 points on 5-of-6 FG and 17 rebounds — but it's going to have to come from those players. No one else looks especially dependable in any area right now. If OKC still feels like the underdog in this series despite gaining homecourt advantage, it's because that tendency to make key mistakes could loom large in a series that now looks as tight as it was supposed to be. Game 2 proved that San Antonio can make their own mistakes — bizarre Waiters push aside, the Spurs had a 3-on-2 break to win the game and didn't score — but they feel like the group more likely to optimize what they have on hand. The most impressive thing about the Thunder is that their immense talent could render that advantage insufficient. - - - - - - - Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @FreemanEric
LeBron James capped his postgame interview with TNT's Lewis Johnson with seven simple words: "All right, I'm going to lay down." He'd earned the rest, but that he'd needed to expend so much energy late despite his team holding an 18-point third-quarter lead suggests that these Atlanta Hawks aren't interested in a second straight meek postseason exit at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball] The four-time NBA Most Valuable Player checked just about every box on Monday, finishing with 25 points on 11-for-21 shooting, nine assists, seven rebounds and five steals in 40 1/2 minutes to lead the Cavs to a 104-93 win that gives Cleveland a 1-0 lead over visiting Atlanta in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series. Kyrie Irving added 21 points on 8-for-18 shooting, eight assists, two blocks and a steal against just two turnovers in the win. Power forward Kevin Love, who watched last year's Eastern Conference finals matchup between these two teams in a suit after suffering a shoulder injury earlier in the postseason, spaced the floor, banged bodies and fought on the boards, working through a dismal 4-for-17 shooting night to finish with 17 points and 11 rebounds. While the Cavs' other two stars each made an impact — as did glass-eating center Tristan Thompson, designated gunner J.R. Smith, and veteran reserves Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye — it was James who led the way. With his pinpoint fastball passing to keep the ball flying around the perimeter ahead of the Hawks' defensive rotations, and his persistent attacking of the smaller Kent Bazemore and Thabo Sefolosha, James helped the Cavs take control early and maintain it for the bulk of the first three quarters. But after Atlanta roared back with a 16-4 run to close the third, took the lead with eight minutes to go in regulation, and stood tied with the East's top seed midway through the fourth, James took the reins. He set up Smith, curling clean off a Love off-ball screen, for a huge go-ahead 3 with four minutes left. With the help of an Irving screen, he got a step on Paul Millsap and drove baseline, drawing the attention of three Hawks to open up a pass to the corner for Love, who'd pump-fake Bazemore into the air, draw a foul and get himself to the line for three big free throws, making two. He came up with a pair of critical steals to short-circuit the Hawks offense; finished a tough and-one layup to put Cleveland up seven; spun around Al Horford for another layup to increase the lead to nine; and cleaned the defensive glass after a Hawks quick-two attempt with just under a minute left that forced Atlanta to foul, putting Kyrie Irving on the line and essentially icing the game. After having been largely quiet since the midpoint of the third as the Hawks made a game of it, James provided whatever Cleveland needed in the final 6 1/2 minutes, pushing the Cavs past the finish line to their fifth straight win of this postseason and their eighth straight win over Atlanta, dating back to last year's conference finals sweep. "I had a couple of turnovers that led to some of their runs, and I just had to make some plays for my team," James said after the game. "They look at me to lead this team every single night, and I was able to get a couple of looks." The Cavs needed those looks, because Atlanta fought back from an awful offensive start to push Cleveland late. As was the case for much of their first-round win over the Boston Celtics, the Hawks struggled to both generate good looks and cash in on the ones they got, shooting just 8-for-24 in the first quarter and 14-for-47 in the first half, with All-Stars Millsap and Horford combining to go just 2-for-16 before intermission. Some of Atlanta's issues stemmed from solid Cavalier defense. Thompson, the 2015 Hawks' postseason bete noire , once again caused problems with his interior activity, and committed ball-denial effort by the likes of Smith and Iman Shumpert helped limit Kyle Korver to just one field-goal attempt ... and even that was a rushed attempt off a pump fake with less than two minutes left in the second quarter, and he missed it. Some of the woes, however, could be chalked up to the Hawks once again missing makeable looks. Atlanta shot just 18-for-48 on field-goal tries on which no defender was within 3 1/2 feet of the shooter, according to NBA.com's SportVU player tracking data . And yet, the Hawks went into half down just 10, thanks in part to a hot shooting start from Bazemore and a stellar second quarter from reserve point guard Dennis Schröder, who made a lot of enemies in Massachusetts with his Round 1 work against the Celtics, and who seemed very eager to open Round 2 by proving nobody in a Cavalier jersey could stay in front of him off the bounce: Schröder scored 10 points in the second quarter to keep Atlanta afloat, and he took over the game in the final five minutes of the third. He stepped into 3-point shots with confidence, intent on making Cleveland pay for its tried-and-true strategy of ducking under high ball screens against the Hawks, sagging off to prevent the drive and baiting Atlanta's playmakers into pulling the trigger from beyond the arc. After he made a couple, the defense tightened up, and the German jitterbug didn't need an engraved invitation to start carving a path to the rim, especially when matched up with Irving and given the opportunity to attack the slow-footed Love in the pick-and-roll. With Schröder at the wheel, the Hawks cut an 18-point deficit down to just four entering the fourth quarter. After Cleveland opened the fourth with five straight points, Schröder — plus some exceptionally committed defense from Horford and Millsap, who continued to swarm, cover ground and protect the rim despite having a hard time putting the ball in the hole — kept attacking and pushing, lofting a beautiful lob for a Horford dunk that gave Atlanta its first lead of the game, 80-79, with eight minutes to go. Irving responded with three straight baskets — a triple, a driving layup and a pullup jumper — to showcase his all-around scoring gifts, but Schröder didn't blink, knifing through the Cavs' defense for a pair of layups of his own to knot the score at 86 with 6:29 remaining. From there, though, the Hawks' attack bogged down, coming up empty on eight of their next nine trips thanks partly to tighter Cavalier defense and partly to ill-timed errors, including four critical turnovers in the final 6 1/2 minutes leading to five Cleveland points. That, combined with James' orchestration on the other end, was enough to give the Cavs the kick they needed to get back to their winning ways following an eight-day layoff after sweeping the Detroit Pistons in the first round. "Obviously, you can tell that [Atlanta] went through a longer series than us — eight [days] is a long time, but we tried to do whatever we could to stay in rhythm, to stay in shape, but we just pushed through it," James said after the game. "A win is a win in the postseason. We're going to get better, obviously, as the series go on, but it's a great start to the series." If you're a glass-half-full sort, you could say the same thing for the Hawks, who put themselves in the position to be in hailing distance down the stretch despite getting just three points in 37 minutes from Korver and watching key offensive contributors Millsap, Horford and Teague combine for just 35 points on 12-for-41 shooting. Atlanta battled on the glass, showed improved defensive effort as the game went on, and put real pressure on the Cavaliers in the second half, especially with Schröder working against Irving and Love in the screen game on his way to a career playoff high 27 points on 10-for-20 shooting, including a 5-for-10 mark from 3-point land, to go with six assists and three rebounds in 28 1/2 minutes. Some of Budenholzer's lineup gambits, such as switching assignments to put Bazemore on Love to put more size on James late, could pay greater dividends moving forward, especially if Love's not as physically able to punish a smaller defender as he might usually be. Love took his lumps late, grimacing in pain and grabbing his right shoulder after a shooting foul by Bazemore, before later coming up limping after landing awkwardly following an attempt for a contested rebound: A glass-half-empty Georgian might wonder how likely it is that Schröder will replicate that shooting performance. Or express skepticism that Bazemore's going to keep putting up 16 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals while spending most of his time guarding James. Or wonder when exactly we're going to see Horford start consistently bossing dudes around on the offensive end. Or note that Atlanta's season-long inability to clear the defensive glass once again came back to bite them in the closing minutes, with both Thompson and Smith grabbing offensive rebounds to extend a Cleveland possession with the Hawks down four, leading to the LeBron and-one that served as the ostensible game-winner. "Defensively, we had some possessions where we gave ourselves a chance [but] we just couldn’t come up with a couple of rebounds late when it was tied," Budenholzer said after the game, according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution . "We get a couple more of those rebounds and execute on the other end. For a Game 1, we’ll learn a lot and we’ll be better going forward on both ends.” They'll need to be, because if the last decade or so of Eastern Conference basketball has taught us anything, it's that close just isn't close enough when the other guys have LeBron James. More NBA coverage: - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.
Follow games live on GameChannel