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Referees Blown Foul Call At The End Again Costs The Spurs Another Playoff Game

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SAN ANTONIO — The Oklahoma City Thunder pulled out an impressive and critical Game 5 win over the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday night to take a 3-2 series lead.

While the Thunder were carried by a heroic effort from Russell Westbrook and a stingy defense, the buzz is once again about a missed call in the waning moments of the game.

With the Thunder up by one with just over nine seconds left, they inbounded the ball with the Spurs prepared to foul (sound familiar?). Westbrook caught the ball while heading toward the baseline, made a quick cut to the basket, scored a layup, and got fouled.

He hit the free throw to put the Thunder up four with six seconds left.

However, a replay showed that Kawhi Leonard fouled Westbrook almost as soon as he caught the ball.

Westbrook’s three-point play dramatically changed the Spurs’ scheme for those final six seconds.

Had the initial foul been called, Westbrook would have gone to the free throw line for two shots. There would be great pressure to hit both, but assuming he did, the Spurs would have faced a three-point deficit, with a little over eight seconds remaining, and three timeouts. They could have called timeout, set up a play, and attempted a three to tie the game. They even could have gone for a quick two, fouled again, then repeated the process and tried to tie the game.

Instead, the Thunder went up four, the Spurs called timeout, and Leonard missed a three-pointer. The Thunder won.

It’s the second time in this dramatic series that referees missed a crucial call down the stretch. In Game 2, the Thunder won after Dion Waiters shoved Manu Ginobili on the inbound passwith 13 seconds left. That was just the most noteworthy foul, however, as the NBA admitted after that the refs missed five infractions in the final sequence.

The Spurs can’t blame the refs in either case — they had their chances to win. Still, nobody wants to see an excellent series between two great teams have an asterisk next to it because refs missed important calls. The Thunder now get a chance to wrap up the series at home in Game 6 on Thursday.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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