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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:
Let 'er rip:
• Manu Ginobili stepped on the sideline while defending Dion Waiters' attempted inbounds pass. There was some debate as to whether Ginobili was "on" or "over" the boundary, and what that could/should mean, but the league office says that should have resulted in a delay of game violation which, in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter, constitutes a technical foul, giving the inbounding team one free throw and the ball back with another chance to throw it in.
• Waiters, now infamously, leaned over and forearm-shivered Ginobili back to create enough space to make an inbounds pass. That, as Mauer said after the game, should have been an offensive foul for crossing the out-of-bounds plane to affect Ginobili's "ability to defend," which is the nicest description of a forearm to the sternum I've ever heard.
• Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard grabbed the jersey of Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook. That should have been a personal foul on Leonard.
• Thunder forward Serge Ibaka grabbed the jersey of Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge, affecting his shot attempt after San Antonio had forced a turnover after the ball was inbounded. That should have been a personal foul on Ibaka.
So, five incorrect no-calls in 13.5 seconds. Not great, Bob!
That's not to say the refs got everything wrong, though. Upon further review, the officials did get seven plays correct:
• Waiters left his feet to make the inbounds pass, which was thought to be something you could only do on the baseline after a made basket or free throw, and not on the sideline. From the league: "Waiters (OKC) jumps during his inbound attempt, which is permissible under NBA interpretations of the relevant throw-in Rule No. 10, Section III, provided the player doesn’t leave the designated throw-in spot (laterally) or leave the playing surface (e.g., stepping into the stands) to gain an advantage." So, correct no-call there, apparently?
That seems weird:
Not sure how the NBA considers Waiters jump pass legal. Rules pretty clear that a player can't move to gain an advantage on a pass there.
— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixYS) May 3, 2016
... but, then again, what about this doesn't?
• TNT play-by-play man Marv Albert noted that it looked like Waiters might have gotten away with a five-second violation on the play, but the refs say the count wasn't slow and Waiters got the ball in before five. Another CNC.
• Thunder forward Kevin Durant and Spurs guard Danny Green got tangled up before disengaging on the inbounds play, and made contact while jumping for the ball on the entry, which ended with Green coming away with the steal. Upon further review, the officials decided that there shouldn't have been any whistles associated with the Green/Durant contact — two more CNCs.
• Ibaka and Leonard twice made contact — once away from the ball with just under six seconds left, and once under the basket while diving for the loose ball with a half-second remaining. Neither resulted in a whistle, and review stamped them both as "incidental contact," and you can't spell that without CNC.
• After the Spurs gained possession, Ginobili drove to the basket and kicked out to Mills in the corner for a potential game-winning 3, Adams came flying in to contest the shot, with Mills hitting the deck and Adams going flying into the stands. "Any contact that occurs after Mills has landed is initiated by Mills prior to him falling to the floor," according to the officials, so no foul there.
We'd be remiss, however, if we didn't mention the other play-ending contact involving Adams:
— The Cauldron (ICYMI) (@CauldronICYMI) May 3, 2016
The center having his arm grabbed by a fan, sadly, did not make its way into the report.
All told, then: both teams got screwed in some form or fashion, and arguments can be made that either side should have had either free throws or new possessions. The Spurs didn't gnash their teeth or rend their garments over it after the game, acknowledging that if they'd made any of a number of other players throughout the preceding 47-plus minutes — or, for that matter, if Green had made a better hit-ahead pass after securing the steal, or if Ginobili had taken the layup rather than kicking out to Mills — they might not have found themselves at the mercy of the greatest late-game clusterbleep in recent NBA history. Alas.
The Spurs did not file a formal protest after last night's game, I'm told. Would have only been a symbolic gesture anyway.
— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) May 3, 2016
On the plus side, we'll always remember this finish, because it was one for the record books:
FWIW: 5 missed calls is a new record in the history of the L2M program in the last 24 seconds. Previous record (4 missed calls) happened 2x.
— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) May 3, 2016
In conclusion: refereeing is really hard, basketball can be really weird, and Game 3's Friday. Who needs a drink?
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