Some people don’t like to talk about officials, saying mistakes are part of the game. But the Oklahoma City Thunder, despite a huge night from Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant finally showing up in the final minute, don’t win game 5 against the Los Angeles Clippers if it isn’t for some awful officiating all through the game and especially in the final moments, allowing them to walk away with an undeserved 105-104 win.
The end sequence was like a dream for the Thudner, who were down by 13 points with four minutes left. It was a nightmare for the Clippers, but that’s a different matter. Most of the controversy revolves around one moment. With 11 seconds to go, Chris Paul turns the ball over and Reggie Jackson heads to the basket. Matt Barnes touches the ball and Jackson knocks it out of bounds. Foul? Maybe, but not clear. Out of bounds? It should be a Clippers ball. The referees review the replay, and decide to give it to the Thunder.
Russell Westbrook pulls off for a 3-pointer that makes no sense, yet the referees call for a foul by Chris Paul. Was there a foul? The slightest of touches. Westbrook didn’t miss because of that, and we don’t want to see games decided on these kind of calls and soft contacts. Westbrook did what he should from the line, knocking down all three of them to give the Thunder a 105-104 lead. Chris Paul turned the ball over again on the final possession.
Winning teams don’t care about how it came to be that they walked off victorious. The 3-of-17 from the field from Durant until the final two minutes didn’t matter anymore because Russell Westbrook’s energy and smart play at every corner and stop made it possible for them to take a 3-2 series lead instead of heading to Los Angeles with elimination hovering over their heads. No one would have made apologies from the Clippers had they profited from officiating mistakes.
This wasn’t a good game for the Thunder. Their defense did a bad job on Blake Griffin and kept leaving shooters like Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick open. The quick ball movement from the Clippers (that stopped in those crucial final moments) was a bit too much for them. Kevin Durant ignored the defense on him and took bad shots as if his name was Russell Westbrook. Luckily, every suspicion of a touch on him resulted in a trip to the line, where he was a perfect 12-for-12 to finish with 27 points despite shooting an abysmal 6-of-22 from the field.
Russell Westbrook was aggressive all game long. On defense, on offense, and it was partially his enthusiasm, stubbornness and determination that willed the Thunder back into the win. He took bad shots too, but somehow it paid off for him in the end, finishing with 38 points on 11-of-23 from the field and 14-of-16 from the line, including the three most important shots. His defense in the end on Chris Paul, finishing with 3 steals, played a huge part in the victory as well.
Even when you’re the most talented team in the country, a little bit of luck and outside help is required. The Oklahoma City Thunder and their head coach made a lot of mistakes we’ve seen them make all season long but it didn’t matter. Some plays going their way and favorable officiating all game long eventually laid the groundwork for the incredible finish. Even when you’re the better side, it never hurts to have luck on it as well.