Update: May 14, 9:30 p.m. ET
The NBA released a statement Wednesday evening deeming that the referees made the correct call in awarding the Oklahoma City Thunder possession after the rock appeared to last be touched by Reggie Jackson with 11.3 seconds remaining in regulation:
The NBA has issued a statement on the controversial fourth-quarter out of bounds call in Game 5 of Thunder-Clippers. pic.twitter.com/tJapGX5sWE— Sporting News NBA (@sn_nba) May 15, 2014
I don't know if you've heard, but there were a couple of controversial calls late in Tuesday night's stunning Game 5 between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers—a game Kevin Durant and company wound up stealing (as you'll see), 105-104, to take a 3-2 series lead.
After steadily chipping away at L.A.'s fourth-quarter 101-88 lead with four minutes left, the Thunder cut it to 104-102 on a Kevin Durant fast-break lay-in. Seconds later, Chris Paul coughed up the ball. Reggie Jackson wound up with it and, upon attempting to drive the lane, was disrupted by Matt Barnes, who seemed to deflect the ball out of bounds.
The refs called it Thunder ball.
Then, with six seconds left, Russell Westbrook hoisted a three-pointer from the right wing.
The whistle blew. It was a foul on Paul.
Westbrook would hit all three free throws. Moments later, Paul turned the ball over again, this time on a last-ditch drive.
There were, to put it mildly, opinions on the matter.
It only makes sense to start with Clippers head coach Doc Rivers:
Doc Rivers: "It was our ball. Everybody saw it. It was our ball ... Let's take away replay. We got robbed because of that call."— Royce Young (@royceyoung) May 14, 2014
Afterward, the officiating crew made its own statement on the matter:
Statement from Crew Chief Tony Brothers pic.twitter.com/3hRXEDBS0l— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) May 14, 2014
It's not crystal clear by any means, but here's an image of the play in question:
You knew Barnes would chime in:
Barnes: "I'm willing to put my kids on it. That ball went off him."— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) May 14, 2014
Here's what the rule book had to say, which basically echoes lead official Tony Brothers' statement:
Here, in full. pic.twitter.com/b7zauJqz6k— Danny Savitzky (@DannySavitzky) May 14, 2014
So, yeah, kind of a mess.
Examined from almost every angle, the foul called on Paul was dubious—doubly so when you consider the context: a deep jumper with seconds left in a pivotal playoff game.
The out-of-bounds call? While it's true that the video evidence wasn't enough to overturn Brothers' original call, said original call was pretty, pretty bad.
NBA referees aren't hired to be perfect; they're hired because they're, ostensibly, the best at what they do. But in a sport where the margin for error on everything—from the space needed to hoist a jumper to a pick-and-roll hedge—is so incredibly thin, it's only understandable that a few pairs of eyeballs might, every now and again, miss something crucial.
And crucial it was. The Clippers will have no recourse for what happened Tuesday night—save, of course, for two straight wins. Should that come to pass, it would be perhaps the greatest psychological turnaround in recent playoff memory.
If it doesn't? Don't expect the wounds to heal any time soon.