If you went to bed Monday night before the final frantic seconds of Oklahoma City's Game 2 win over San Antonio then you missed a play nobody has ever seen before. That's not hyperbole, but rather what just about everyone from analyst Chris Webber in real time to the "Inside the NBA" crew following the game to the referees well after the fact.
That the referees reacted then and the day after as if Dion Waiters shoving Manu Ginobili while attempting to throw the ball inbounds compared to a UFO sighting is remarkable.
You can watch the entire sequence below, but here's an isolated look at the shove that changed the world.
Now, here's what the refs on the scene told a pool reporter following the Thunder's 98-97 win which evened the best-of-7 series 1-1.
Pool Reporter Transcript from tonight's OKC/San Antonio game pic.twitter.com/uMXiRPdrqT— NBA Official (@NBAOfficial) May 3, 2016
On Tuesday afternoon, the The National Basketball Referees Association tweeted out the following statement.
The end of game inbound foul in #OKCvsSAS was one we've never seen before & we missed it. We'll incorporate this in training moving forward.— NBA Referees (@OfficialNBARefs) May 3, 2016
Look, we get it, this play was rare if not a true unicorn. How to handle such a sequence isn't taught in official official's classes, cool.
That doesn't mean go into deer-in-the-headlights mode. Go back and view the first clip above and note where the ref is positioned. If that guy can't see something squirrely happened then not sure what we're all doing here.
Even if the "we've never seen this before" angle on the shove led to freezing in the moment, how about dealing with what else happened on the play?
Waiters channeled Kris Kross with his jump, which may have looked unkosher in the moment, but was deemed "permissible" because he went straight up and down rather than side-to-side. Not all agree with that interpretation.
Now, was Ginobili, as some have asserted, technically too close to the passer as the defender? Yes, according to the NBA's "last two minute report" which states Ginobili should have been called for a violation after stepping on the sideline. If the refs whistle the play dead, discuss and call some sort of do-over because both were at fault -- Waiters' shove and Ginobili's step -- maybe that flies. It beats what happened.
Wait, there's more. Per the two-minute report, Patty Mills and Kawhi Leonard should have been called for defensive holding on the inbounds pass. Meanwhile Serge Ibaka grabbed a handful of LaMarcus Aldridge's jersey as the Spurs forward attempted a putback in the final seconds. Also missed.
Here's a suggestion to those teaching the NBA referees on what should be the primary takeaway from this rarest of rare plays. Forget the shove or even the jump. Teach your refs how to think on their feet.