Breakdown: Everything that went wrong on final play of Thunder-Spurs –

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At the end of Game 2 between the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder, chaos reigned supreme. The Thunder were up by one point with 13.5 seconds left in the game. For some heroic reason, Billy Donovan tasked Dion Waiters with being the inbounder on the sideline. And from there, a bevy of missed calls snowballed into an avalanche of mayhem that has to be seen to be truly believed.

“Something certainly happened on the sideline, I thought,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said about the play.

After the game, lead referee Ken Mauer explained what they thought happened and what they believe should have been called after reviewing in the locker room. This was the explanation of what should have been called on the final play.

Question: Can you explain what you saw on the inbounds play with 13.5 seconds remaining when Dion Waiters appeared to make contact with Manu Ginobili?

Mauer: On the floor, we did not see a foul on the play. However, upon review we realize and we agree that we should have had an offensive foul on the play. It’s a play that we have never seen before, ever, but we feel we should have had an offensive foul on Waiters.

Question: Had an offensive call been made on Waiters, what rule would have applied to a foul committed before throw-in?

Mauer: An offensive foul. Possession Spurs.

Offensive foul on Waiters. Simple enough, right? It’s not that simple. There is a lot to unpack here, so let’s get into it step-by-step.

1. Manu Ginobili stepped on/over the line: Delay of Game violation last two minutes

The first missed call of the play was a violation by Spurs guard Manu Ginobili. He stepped on/over the sideline as Waiters is attempting to inbound the ball. That’s a delay of game penalty, and in the last two minutes, it brings about a technical foul on the defense. It’s Rule 8, Section II, sub-section f:

PENALTY: The first offense is a warning. A technical foul shall be assessed with each successive offense and charged to the team. An announcement will be made by the public address announcer. The 24-second clock shall remain the same or reset to 14, whichever is greater, if the violation is assessed against the defensive team. The offensive team shall be awarded a new 8 seconds to advance the ball if it is in the backcourt. If repeated acts become a travesty, the head coach shall be notified that he is being held responsible.
EXCEPTION (5): In the last two minutes of the fourth period and/or any overtime period, a technical foul will be assessed if the defender crosses or breaks the plane of the boundary line prior to the ball being released on a throw-in.

“When they look at it, they’ll see the truth.” Waiters said about the play. “We played on. They got the ball back, we got a hell of a stop.”

Durant probably goes to the free-throw line, makes it a two-point game, and we get another glorious Dion Waiters inbound play. Some of you may be saying to yourself, “See? Manu had the first violation! Everything else is moot!” There is no fun in that kind of thinking. Let’s really embrace the madness. Here’s the next one:

You see that little infraction around the near sideline? Russell Westbrook is running toward Waiters, and Kawhi Leonard is chasing him. He’s also grabbing a comically large handful of jersey on the play.

2. Kawhi Leonard is holding Russell Westbrook’s jersey: Inbound foul

That’s a 10-yard penalty and you repeat the down. Wait, that’s the wrong sport. The actual rule on this is if you’re fouling a player before the inbound pass is even thrown, the offensive team gets a free throw with the shooter of their choice and they get to re-inbound the ball from its original inbounding spot when the foul occurred.

Section X–Away-From-The-Play Foul
a. During the last two minutes of the fourth period or overtime period(s) with the offensive team in possession of the ball, all personal fouls which are assessed against the defensive team prior to the ball being released on a throw-in and/or away-from-the-play, shall be administered as follows:
(1) A personal foul and team foul shall be assessed and one free throw attempt shall be awarded. The free throw may be attempted by any play-er in the game at the time the personal foul was committed.
(2) If the foul occurs when the ball is inbounds, the offended team shall be awarded the ball at the nearest point where play was interrupted but no nearer to the baseline than the free throw line extended.
(3) If the foul occurs prior to the release on a throw-in, the offended team shall be awarded the ball at the original throw-in spot, with all privileges, if any, remaining.

So Durant gets a free throw, knocks it down, and we get another glorious inbounding moment from Waiters. But wait, there’s more:

3. Dion Waiters pushes Manu Ginobili with forearm: Offensive Foul violation

Chris Webber was doing the color commentary for this game and he was furious that Waiters wasn’t called for the clear-out against Ginobili. And he’s not wrong. Mauer above believes it’s true, too, and that it should’ve been an offensive foul called.

“I was trying to pressure the ball and [Waiters] kind of created room with his elbow.” Ginobili said. “But, you know, things happen. It’s a very awkward play. It doesn’t happen very often. So I guess they didn’t see it. And with all that — I mean, we complain about that because that’s what we do — we had the ball, we had a great shot, we had a few other opportunities. so, things happen.”

“I don’t know what it is, to tell you the truth, what type of violation that is.” Ginobili continued. “It’s got to be something. But again, it’s not that play that decided anything because we got the steal, we got a shot, we got an offensive rebound. So I really don’t know, I’ve never seen anything, a play like that. So I don’t know what should have been called. Or if it should have been called anything. I mean, they’re going to say. And it doesn’t matter. It’s over. I’m not going to be able to change it. Nobody’s going to be able to change it.”

That would have given the Spurs the ball with 13.5 seconds left and time to put together a nice offensive possession to recapture the lead and maybe even win the game.

“Yeah, [Waiters] kind of elbowed [Ginobili], went over the line,” Leonard said. “But we ended up getting a turnover and a steal out of that so you can’t really fault it.”

However, look at this snippet of the play one more time:

4. Dion Waiters jumps while inbounding the ball: Throw-in violation

Not only did Waiters throw a forearm shiver to Ginobili’s chest to clear some room, but that’s not even the sole violation he commits in this action. After he moves Ginobili a bit, Waiters jumps to throw the ball to Durant. This is not something you’re allowed to do unless it’s on the baseline after a made basket or free throw. Here’s the NBA rule:

Section IV-Thrower-in
a. A thrower-in shall not (1) carry the ball onto the court; (2) fail to release the ball within 5 seconds; (3) touch it on the court before it has touched another player; (4) leave the designated throw-in spot; (5) throw the ball so that it enters the basket before touching anyone on the court; (6) step over the boundary line while inbounding the ball; (7) cause the ball to go out-of-bounds without being touched inbounds; (8) leave the playing surface to gain an advantage on a throw-in; (9) hand the ball to a player on the court.
EXCEPTION: After a field goal or free throw as a result of a personal foul, the thrower-in may run the end line or pass to a teammate behind the end line.
b. Once an official recognizes the designated player to throw the ball in, there shall be no change of the thrower-in unless the offensive team makes a substitution, there is a regular or 20-second timeout or a suspension of play.
PENALTY: Loss of ball. The ball is awarded to the opposing team at the original spot of the throw-in.

Should have been the Spurs’ ball at the spot of the inbound, and again, they’d have 13.5 seconds to figure something out with their next possession. Funny thing about the clock though …

5. The clock inexplicably begins before anybody touches the ball: Reset

Initially, I thought there may have been a five-second violation, but I’ve counted it about a hundred times in my head, used the referees arm motion to count it out, and feel pretty comfortable in saying that Waiters did not commit a five-second violation. It was very close, but I think he was safe. Marv Albert mentioned he thought the referee had a slow count on the inbound, which may be, but again it’s pretty hard to say definitively it happened.

However, the clock begins before anybody even touches it. Part of that could be they thought Waiters’ contact with Ginobili was the ball being touched. The clock operator begins the clock early, and that’s not supposed to happen. The play should’ve been blown dead, the clock reset, and Waiters given another glorious inbounding opportunity.

Did anything else get missed on this play? You bet.

6. Danny Green fouls Kevin Durant on catch attempt: Loose Ball foul

I’ll fully admit this one is open to interpretation. As with what happens on a lot of these late game situations, the refs usually allow a bit more contact than normal, and players gleefully accept the loosened reins. Because of that, you see a lot of clutching and grabbing (Kawhi on Russ) and slapping than normal. With the extra contact allowed, you can make a case for Danny Green’s contact with Kevin Durant not actually being a foul, especially when you recognize everything they did allow to happen.

“I don’t really know what happen that last minute.” Said Durant. “I just know we were able to come out on top.”

The potential foul looks much worse on the side angle, but the angle given just above shows the contact isn’t as severe as originally thought. With that said, Green definitely gets Durant on the arm. It’s not what knocked him over. Momentum knocked him to the ground, but the slap on the elbow/arm of Durant helps dislodge the ball. That should be two free throws and Spurs ball with roughly 12 seconds left on the clock. Durant probably makes them, so you’re looking at a three-point lead.

Anything else weird happen? You bet.

7. Fan grabs Steven Adams arm after he falls out of bounds: Not advised

When Steven Adams challenged Patty Mills‘ attempt from the corner (no, Mills was not fouled on the play),he went falling into the stands. As you can see in the video above, a fan grabbed his arm, which he ripped away from the grasp. It looks like he fell into a female fan and she possibly could’ve been looking to regain her balance by leveraging him as a support. It did not look like he was a fan of such a thing, probably believing a fan was trying to keep him from getting back in the play.

Had that been a man doing the same thing, is it fair to wonder if Adams has a more aggressive reaction or would he have just tried to get back into the play on the court anyway?

It wasn’t the last bit of contact had in this game, either:

8. LaMarcus Aldridge grabbed by Serge Ibaka on rebound: Loose Ball foul

Kawhi wasn’t the only player grabbing jerseys on the play. On the missed shot by Mills, there was a weird carom off the rim and a mad scramble for the ball. In the process, you can clearly see that Serge Ibaka has his hands all over LaMarcus Aldridge’s jersey. He’s pulling at it to gain an advantage in the fight for the loose ball, and eventually he ends up with it as time expires.

Really, this should’ve been a loose ball foul. That would’ve given the Aldridge two free throws. He was a volcano during the game, so he probably ends up making both. That gives the Spurs a one point lead, and the Thunder get the ball with roughly 2.5 seconds left. And you know what that means?

Yep, you guessed it. Another glorious Waiters inbounding opportunity.

CBS Sports’ Ananth Pandian contributed to this story.

Breakdown: Everything that went wrong on final play of Thunder-Spurs –