The Thunder evened their Western Conference semifinals series with the Spurs thanks to a controversial no-call on an inbounds pass by Dion Waiters in the closing seconds of Game 2 on Monday in San Antonio.
With Oklahoma City leading 98–97 and 13.5 remaining in regulation, Waiters inbounded the ball from the left sideline with Manu Ginobili defending him. Unable to find a quick pass, Waiters faked multiple times before reaching forward across the line with his right forearm to make contact with Ginobili’s chest.
Ginobili, who was standing inbounds when contact was made, leaned backward and immediately looked to official Marc Davis for a whistle. No foul or violation was assessed and play continued. Adding to the complexity of the play, video replays indicated that Ginobili might have crossed over the sideline while defending the pass before Waiters made contact with him. Doing so could have resulted in a delay of game violation. Additionally, Waiters might have committed an inbounds infraction by jumping and leaving his feet before completing the pass.
Dion Waiters sitting at his locker, scrolling through his phone postgame: "He stepped on the line anyway"— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) May 3, 2016
After recovering possession on Waiters’s subsequent errant pass, the Spurs missed multiple attempts at a game-winner, giving the Thunder a 98–97 road win. After the game, crew chief Ken Mauer admitted that the officials missed a foul call on Waiters and that the ball should have been given to the Spurs.
“On the floor we did not see a foul on the play,” Mauer said in a statement released to the media. “However, upon review we realize and we agree we should have had an offensive foul on the play. It’s a play we’ve never seen before, ever. We should have had an offensive foul [on Waiters] on the play. Possession Spurs.”
“I don’t know what type of violation it is [but it’s] got to be something,” Ginobili said. But it’s not the play that decided anything because we got the steal [and] we got the shot. It doesn’t matter, it’s over. They’re not going to change it. It’s 1–1. We’re going to OKC.”
San Antonio’s coaching staff and players appealed for a whistle before exiting the court.
“Something certainly happened on the sideline I thought,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
Thunder coach Billy Donovan said he wasn’t aware of the controversy on the inbounds pass, noting instead that their was contact on Kevin Durant during the pass.
“I have no idea about that,” Donovan said of Waiters’s contact on Ginobili. “I didn’t see the clip.”
Protests over the no-call on the unusual contact came in immediately from TNT commentators Chris Webber and Charles Barkley.
“I can’t think of anything like this in my 30 years in the NBA,” Barkley said.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban also disputed the lack of a whistle on Twitter.
“If that happened to us on a throw-in we would already have the protest written,” Cuban said.
The Waiters/Ginobili brouhaha was one of many sources of confusion during the wild final play. Kawhi Leonard appeared to grab Russell Westbrook’s jersey, Durant may or may not have been fouled in the scramble to catch Waiters’s pass and LaMarcus Aldridge told reporters he felt he was fouled in the scramble to put up a game-winning attempt.
Thunder center Steven Adams also appeared to get tangled up with a fan seated courtside after contesting a shot in the corner. A fan appeared to hold Adams’s arm, briefly preventing him from returning to the play before he was able to swing free.
Westbrook led the Thunder with 29 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. Durant added 28 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Aldridge scored a game-high 41 points and added eight rebounds and three assists. Leonard added 14 points and seven rebounds in the loss. Game 3 is set for Oklahoma City on Friday.