The Golden State Warriors upset the Los Angeles Clippers in LA, 109-105, on Saturday to take Game 1 of their Western Conference playoff tilt, but the NBA has announced that a potentially game-changing foul on Draymond Green should have been called.
Dan Woike of the Orange County Register broke the news Sunday and provided a quote from the league:
League says there should've been a foul called on Draymond Green late in the 4th quarter on the play resulting in a CP3 turnover.— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) April 20, 2014
"Just prior to the ball going out-of-bounds, Paul was fouled by Green and Paul should have been granted two free throws." Wasn't reviewable— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) April 20, 2014
The play in question (video here) occurred with about 21 seconds left in the contest with the Warriors ahead just 107-105. Had the foul been called, Paul would have hit the charity stripe for two shots rather than committed a turnover.
Did the botched call alter the outcome of the game?
While it's true Paul missed two attempts with the Clippers down 108-105, the fact remains the referees blew what may have been a game-deciding play in the closing moments of a critical postseason game.
To their credit, the fierce rivalry warranted a strict ballgame by the referees, which resulted in 29 total fouls called in the first half alone. But the closing moments of a close contest aren't the time for the whistles to suddenly become hesitant. They did, and as a result the league has to take another lumping in the court of public opinion.
For his part, Green was a major thorn in Paul's side for most of the night and hit two attempts of his own from the charity stripe in the closing moments. He spoke about his late-game performance in the hostile environment after the fact, per Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group:
Draymond Green: "I love the big moment. I feel like it shows what you’re made of, and it’s a testament of you."— Diamond Leung (@diamond83) April 20, 2014
J.A. Adande of ESPN discussed the Warriors' strategy against Paul:
The Warriors made things difficult on Chris Paul by sticking (Klay) Thompson on him and then sending big men his way coming off screens -- never more effectively than when Draymond Green jumped out and caused Paul to lose the ball out of bounds in the final 20 seconds. ...
... Normally that's an invitation for him to throw lobs to Griffin, but the Warriors took care of that as well by shifting the weak side of their defense.
While the blown call is a black eye for the NBA once again in terms of postseason officiating, the Clippers would be wise to not use it as a crutch. Los Angeles shouldn't have been trailing the No. 6 seed at home to begin with, especially after going 34-7 at the Staples Center in the regular season.
Los Angeles has an opportunity to knot the series up at home Monday, but to do so Blake Griffin must stay out of foul trouble and complement the scoring ability of Paul on the outside.
Conversely, Golden State has little to change after Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson once again proved to be enough to overwhelm the slower-paced Clippers. Winning the battle on the glass yet again with Griffin in foul trouble would simply be icing on the cake.
Regardless, more eyes than usual will be on the referees Monday night.