Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets lived up to the hype.
The Warriors emerged with a hard-fought 104-99 victory despite a third-quarter injury to Kevin Durant. Houston cut what was once a 20-point deficit to just three when Durant exited the game with what has been called a right calf strain.
The game was tied after three quarters, but Houston was never able to grab the lead. A James Harden bucket got the Rockets within three, 102-99, with 18.6 seconds to play. And something that happened in the seconds that followed has left some Rockets fans peeved.
The Warriors inbounded the ball and advanced it up the court, trying to take as many seconds off the clock as possible. Klay Thompson pushed the ball past half court and dished to Andre Iguodala. Iguodala, a poor free-throw shooter, quickly got the ball back to Thompson. With Chris Paul descending on him, Thompson threw a risky pass into traffic as he lumbered out of bounds.
From there, after the ball hit off a sprawling Eric Gordon, it ended up in the hands of Kevon Looney. He alertly dished it back to Thompson, who cut to the hoop and deposited a tough layup to cap off a wacky sequence and, more importantly, build the lead up to five points with 4.1 seconds remaining in regulation.
Here is the sequence in its entirety:
With so many things happening so quickly, it was hard for anybody to notice — officials included — that Thompson’s foot appeared to be out of bounds before he got rid of the pass that made its way to Looney.
Klay Thompson might have stepped out of bounds on the final possession. 👀 pic.twitter.com/PjlCdnbmyQ
— House of Highlights (@HoHighlights) May 9, 2019
That’s really, really close — but the ball appears to still be on Thompson’s fingertips with his foot clearly out of bounds.
NBA’s Last 2 Minute report inconclusive
The NBA addressed the play in the Last 2 Minute report from the game that analyzes officiating in the final two minutes of play.
Their conclusion? Inconclusive. From the report:
After reviewing the play from multiple angles and frame-by-frame, there is no conclusive angle that shows the ball touching Thompson’s fingertips as he lands before releasing the ball on his pass attempt.
Had Thompson been whistled for a turnover, the ball would have been back with Houston with about 10 seconds to play with the chance to force overtime. Instead, Golden State was able to seal the game with Thompson’s contested lay-in.
Of course, it’s easy to recognize that Thompson was likely out of bounds when the play is slowed on a frame-by-frame basis. But in real time, that would have been an exceedingly difficult call for a referee to make, especially at that juncture of the game. On top of that, it could be argued that the only reason Thompson tumbled out of bounds was because he was fouled by Paul.
Still, that won’t make the loss any easier to stomach for Houston fans.
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