Playoff Diaries #9:
And Out Come The Wolves

Transcendent, bonkers and controversial are all words we could use to describe the end of Game 5 of OKC vs. LAC

by & on May 14, 2014

13 seconds of bonkers basketball

@thirstyvillain: The first round of these NBA Playoffs was checkered with highs and lows from an officiating stand point, with the most glaring coming from The Great White North. The second round of the playoffs had seemingly extinguished that narrative until last night’s Thunder vs. Clippers Game 5.

The entirety of the Clippers front line was in foul trouble before the 1st quarter concluded, with DeAndre Jordan and Glen Davis each collecting two; Chris Paul picked up two in the stanza as well. The following three quarters were no different as both Davis, Jordan and at times, Griffin, were saddled with more fouls than quarters played. Jordan ended up fouling out late in the fourth on an illegal screen call that registered a -8 on the Kevin Garnett Moving Screen Scale (the scale goes from -8 to infuriatingthousand). Through all of this, the Clippers managed to keep the lead for what felt like the entire game. Then, the unthinkable happened.

With 0:43 seconds to go and the Clippers up 7, Kevin Durant awoke from his 3/17 slumber and nailed a gorgeous 3-pointer out of a Scott Brooks timeout. I mention Scott Brooks specifically because I feel like this is the first “play” he’s called all season. After Jamal Crawford missed a layup on the game’s next play, KD went to the hoop to cut the game to 2 with 13 seconds to play. These next 13 seconds are among the strangest I’ve witnessed in my 20+ years of basketball.

0:13 – Instead of settling for the free throws on what he thinks is going to be a foul with the clock winding down, Chris Paul decides to do that thing where players try to trick referees into calling a foul on a half court shot. No foul is called on the play and Paul ends up throwing the ball right to Reggie Jackson.

0:11 – Reggie Jackson goes up for the Euro Step layup over Matt Barnes with both KD and Russell Westbrook open for a pass to tie the game. Barnes seemingly fouls Jackson, but the referees call the play out of bounds – OKC ball. After reviewing a play that every conceivable angle shows the ball being last touched by Jackson, the referees decide that Barnes touched it last, allowing OKC to keep possession. Doc Rivers loses his mind.

0:06 – Russell Westbrook does Russell Westbrook things and shoots a contested 3-pointer with time left on the clock for the win that manages to miss the rim and clang of the backboard – only he was fouled (and yes, it was a foul) by Paul. Russ makes all three of his free throws, flexes like a maniac and all of the sudden, OKC is up 1.

0:04 – Chris Paul drives the lane, seeking the contact and call from the officials but loses the ball, which is due to Serge Ibaka’s presence and Reggie Jackson’s 100% foul. Game over.

That’s 250 words about 13 seconds of NBA basketball. Bonkers was the way I described the game at the time and bonkers is how I will describe it to my grandchildren. I might also include a Doc Rivers word: robbery.

The referees just decided their first game of the second round of the playoffs, and it was done in supremely ugly fashion. Will Doc Rivers’ lambasting of the officiating garner him the Jason Kidd, 25k win in Game 6? Time will tell.

Deceptive optics

Travis Nicholson: Lots of people have already written (and are going to write) that it was the refs — and not Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Reggie Jackson or the failure of Chris Paul — that were the deciding factor in the Thunder’s Game 5 win over the Clippers. Between the fouls called and the fouls not called, no one can say that this game wasn’t decided by subjective decision-making by the refs. This, however, is unavoidable. Even in the era of refs being able to go to the tape to check on the accuracy of a call, sometimes there is no certainty.

Cameras are liars more than we think they are. Refereeing isn’t a science, either. On a play like Reggie Jackson’s drive against Matt Barnes, where, upon replay, the call looks like it probably went off Jackson’s hand, the cameras didn’t offer good enough evidence. We were given four or five different views of the same play but none of the plays were the perfect view of what actually happened. The evidence we are given is from numerous cameras positioned anywhere from ten feet to almost a hundred feet away, their lenses zoomed and the action framed at odd angles. Perspective is a tricky bitch. The best view was likely from the ref, standing a few feet away from the play, focused intently on the interaction happening between Barnes and Jackson. As Jackson goes for the drive, Barnes hand hits Jackson’s arm and the ball then veers out of Jackson’s hands on a trajectory dictated by Barnes’ swat. The ball doesn’t change trajectory after this, and lands out of bounds. Jackson may have touched it after the Barnes foul, but optics aren’t perfect, and we can’t know for sure.


Looking at this straight on view, we would have to look through the ball to see the last instance when Jackson’s hand was on it. The best view we had was inconclusive.

Without any good evidence to overturn the call, the only true certainty the replay shows was that Jackson was fouled by Barnes. By letter of the rule book, had the refs switched the call and made it Clippers ball it would have been just as fair had they left it as is. It was a subjective decision going one of two ways. The refs missed a foul, yet the call on the floor stayed, and instead of two (deserved) free throws for Jackson to tie the game, the Thunder were still down 2 late in the game, and now would be forced to earn their points during live play instead of at the charity stripe.

Of course, thanks to a real, actual Chris Paul foul on a Westbrook three, the game would go to free throws. Three clutch makes by Westbrook, which KD was unable to watch because this is all too damn real, man, forced CP into a desperation last second drive where he would simply lose the handle and in turn, the chance to go up 3 games to 2 with a chance to close it out at home in the Staples Center.

Doc Rivers might be still be insisting “that’s our ball!” and “we got robbed!” well into today, but Chris Paul isn’t blaming anyone else other than himself. Neither is fair. The reality of the situation is that at the crucial moment, the Thunder did things that helped them win the game and the Clippers did the opposite, each as a team, independent of the referee controversy. We can go to the tape or debate the nature of the word “the” in the NBA rule books for exactly one news cycle of who gives a fuck, and at the end of the game each had their chance to win and only one team did.

is eight feet tall and a hundred pounds, so yeah of course he can dunk. He is also FF's lead Raptors writer. He lives, breathes, sleeps and eats cured meats in Toronto and once saw a seagull pick up a whole panzerotto. He plays basketball at a church every Saturday. On Sunday, he reads psalms at the gym.

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