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Refs miss crucial call, but Spurs had their chances

San Antonio has bigger issues than a controversial no-call to blame for its Game 2 loss to motivated Oklahoma City

POSTED: May 3, 2016 9:01 AM ET

By Fran Blinebury

BY Fran Blinebury


Inside The NBA: Thunder-Spurs Last Play

The Inside crew discuss the non-foul call on Manu Ginobili on the last play of the game.

— It didn't take a next-day investigation for the NBA to pore over video and determine that the call was missed.

Dion Waiters pushed off on Manu Ginobili while throwing an inbounds pass with 13.5 seconds left in Monday night's game.

In a written Q&A with pool reporter Mike Monroe, NBA crew chief Ken Mauer fessed up.

"On the floor, we did not see a foul on the play," Mauer said. "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."

Of course, the swift and forthright acknowledgment will do nothing to stop the howling up and down the River Walk over the next several days in the wake of the San Antonio Spurs' 98-97 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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.

– Officiating crew chief Ken Mauer

From coast-to-coast and around the globe, everybody who saw the Toronto Raptors' DeMar DeRozan give Ian Mahinmi of the Indiana Pacers that shove in the back on Sunday night will be up in arms again. Phone lines to talk radio shows will sizzle with anger and indignation. The conspiracy theorists will have more to dig into than the race for the Republican nomination. At least until Game 3 tips off on Friday.

It was clear. It was obvious. By rule, if the offensive foul had been called, the Spurs would have been given possession of the ball and had a chance to call timeout to set up a final play.

And yet ...

Trailing by one point, the Spurs got the ball when Danny Green desperately leaped up to take the ball away from OKC's Kevin Durant. Green tossed it ahead to teammate Patty Mills, who might have cruised in for the go-ahead layup if 7-footer Steven Adams hadn't been lurking.

Mills swung the ball to Ginobili, who appeared to have an open shot on the right baseline, but said he sensed Adams closing just ahead. He kicked it back to Mills, now in the right corner.

"Something that we practice all the time," Mills said. "And I just missed the shot."

The Spurs still came up with an offensive rebound as LaMarcus Aldridge got his hands on the ball to the left of the basket, but never could get a real shot off, perhaps because Serge Ibaka had a handful of his jersey.

Because it's the playoffs and because we are who we've become in our video-obsessed, somebody's-out-to-get-us society, Waiters' shove and resulting mad scramble will be replayed more than the Zapruder tapes, especially since there are now three off-days between games.

"I don't know what it is, what type of violation it is," Ginobili said. "It has got to be something. But it's not that play that decided anything. Because we got the steal, we got a shot, we got an offensive rebound."

Inside The NBA: Ginobili on Non-Foul Call

Manu Ginobili addresses the media about the non-foul call on the last play of the game.

That is exactly the point. The Spurs got everything they needed to win the game. But they didn't because they didn't make the right plays at the right time. Or most of the time, for that matter.

Ginobili probably should have taken his shot. He was closer to the hoop than Mills and seemed to have an opening ahead of Adams.

Mills did get his feet under him, did get a good look on his corner 3, but with still plenty of time remaining on the clock, appeared to rush his shot, which caused him to badly misfire.

Even before all of the fire drill, the Spurs still had a 20-second timeout in hand and could have called it after Green's steal to advance the ball into the front court and draw up a final play by one of the game's masters, coach Gregg Popovich. Did they forget? Did they panic?

"Ah, I don't know," Mills said. "Everything seemed to happen so quickly."

However, what had happened more steadily and methodically all night was the Thunder outplayed and outworked the Spurs, took the game from the opening tip in attack mode. Which is, after all, what everyone had expected after OKC was thoroughly embarrassed by the 32-point loss in Game 1.

The Spurs had talked about the need for having an "appropriate fear" for nearly 48 hours. Then they let the Thunder control the pace and the tenor and the score most of the night. The truth is this OKC team that has had a penchant for blowing fourth quarter leads all season -- 15 of them -- nearly blew this one three different times.

That it took a hairy conclusion and the officials to miss a call to avoid catastrophe is the reason why the Thunder so gleefully jumped for joy and hugged each other when the horn finally sounded, only the second visiting team to win in 45 games at the AT&T Center all season. It's also why the Spurs should now be concerned going to OKC with the series 1-1. It wasn't about a missed call and some missed chances in the end. It was about a horribly uninspired and inept start, wasting a 41-point night by Aldridge and actually letting the Thunder beat them three different times in the same game.

"It feels horrible, feels wasted," Aldridge said.

And it was, long before Waiters shoved and three referees all missed it. Their offense was disorganized. They missed handfuls of layups.They were dominated on the backboards and in the paint.

"We complain about that because that's what we do," Ginobili said. "We had the ball. We had a great shot. We had a few other opportunities. So it's things that happen."

It's those things that happened long before the final frantic seconds that really need to be reviewed now. By the Spurs.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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