By Sekou Smith, NBA.com
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Rule 8, Section II-c of the NBA rule book hasn’t gotten this much attention since it was first written.
But the text is being cited in all corners of the basketball universe as we try to make sense of what happened in the final seconds of Game 5 of the Los Angeles Clippers-Oklahoma City Thunder Western Conference semifinal Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers called it potentially a “series-defining call.” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he definitely saw a foul that wasn’t called on Matt Barnes for slapping the hand of Reggie Jackson as Jackson frantically raced toward the basket with the Thunder’s comeback on the line with 11.3 seconds to play. (Brooks admitted, though, he couldn’t tell from the replays who touched the ball last as it went out of bounds.)
Whatever the case, after Barnes of the Clippers slapped at the ball and caught OKC’s Jackson on the left hand, after the ball went out of bounds (seemingly, in many people’s eyes, off Jackson’s right hand), referee Tony Brothers signaled OKC ball.
The refs went to the video replays to see who last touched the ball, but the replays, they said, were inconclusive. So Oklahoma City retained possession and went on to win, 105-104, completing a stunning comeback from 13 points down with 3:30 left to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
And a controversy was born.
Here is the replay of the controversial call, including some of the most poignant responses from the Clippers, who (they admitted) wouldn’t have been in a position for the call to matter if they’d have taken care of business:
And here’s what Rule 8, Section II-c states:
… If a player has his hand in contact with the ball and an opponent hits the hand causing the ball to go out-of-bounds, the team whose player had his hand on the ball will retain possession.
Not long after the call, Stu Jackson, the NBA’s former Vice President for Basketball Operations, made it clear that he thought the right call was made on the floor — pointing to 8-II-c — and that the replay rule was used properly.
If a player hits hand causing the ball to go out-of-bound the team whose player had his hand on the ball will retain possession OKC BALL—
Stu Jackson (@StuJackson32) May 14, 2014
We couldn’t let Jackson get away with just a 140-character response. We needed more and the Hang Time Podcast crew got it from Jackson this morning.
Complicating the whole matter is the statement from Brothers after the game. A pool reporter was dispatched to get a clarification on the ruling and returned with what appears to be a simple — though certainly not satisfactory to everybody — explanation.
Please provide clarification on the out-of bounds play with 11.3 seconds remaining in regulation in which Oklahoma City was awarded possession.
“When the ball goes out of bounds, the ball was awarded to Oklahoma City. We go review the play. We saw two replays. The two replays we saw were from the overhead camera showing down, and the one from under the basket showing the same angle but from a different view. And from those two replays, it was inconclusive as to who the ball went out of bounds off of. When it’s inconclusive, we have to go with the call that was on the floor.”
We know what Rivers thinks of that explanation. You can bet Clippers fans around the world agree wholeheartedly with their coach.
The Thunder and their fans, of course, are just glad to be on the other side of a crazy finish after surrendering a 22-point lead in Game 4 in Los Angeles on Sunday.
Whatever the case, the buildup for Game 6 Thursday night in Los Angeles — where the Clippers have to win in order to keep their season alive — couldn’t get any bigger.