In what may have been one of the wildest finishes in NBA Playoff history, the Oklahoma City Thunder came back from being down 13 points with three minutes to play and down 7 with less than a minute to play to win 105-104 for a 3-2 series lead. While the Los Angeles Clippers’ execution on offense in the final few minutes was far from satisfactory, one play did cause confusion for most who watched the game.
After Durant brought OKC to within two points on a fastbreak layup with under 17 seconds to play, Chris Paul expected to be fouled by Russell Westbrook on the following possession. In a series of plays that still seem improbable, Westbrook stole the ball from Paul and passed it to a streaking Reggie Jackson.
On a 3-on-1 situation, Jackson attacked the basket when Matt Barnes appeared to foul him on a shot attempt. The ball sailed out of bounds, seemingly last touched by Jackson. No foul was called, and as such, the ball was expected to be given to the Clippers.
Expected, being the key word.
“We got robbed because of that call,” Doc Rivers said in his postgame press conference. “That could be a series-defining call and that’s not right.”
Rule 8, Section IIb of the NBA states the following:
If a player has his hand in contact with the ball and an opponent hits the hand causing the ball to go out-of-bounds, the team whose player had his hand on the ball will retain possession.
Even applying that rule to the play leads to no conclusive results. It’s inconclusive whether or not Barnes hit just Jackson’s hand or the ball also.
After looking at the instant replay, the referees deemed it “inconclusive” to reverse any call and give the ball to the Clippers.
“At the end of the day, we have a replay system that we’re supposed to look at,” Rivers said. “I don’t want to hear that they didn’t have that replay. That’s a bunch of crap.”
Blown call or not, the Clippers put themselves in the dangerous situation in the final moments of the game. With two turnovers and fouling a three-point shooter in the final 17 seconds, Paul took the brunt of responsibility upon himself.
“This is probably the toughest thing I’ve been through basketball-wise,” Paul said in his postgame press conference. “It’s me. Everything that happened there at the end is on me. I’m supposed to be the leader of the team. That can’t happen.”
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