San Antonio Spurs fans are likely licking their wounds right about now, still stinging from an NBA Finals Game 6 that saw the boys in black and grey snatch defeat from the jaws of victory thanks to some late-game errors and some timely shooting by a Miami Heat team desperate to save its season. But some Spurs supporters might be sour at one particular play late in Game 6′s overtime session on which they might feel their favorite squad got the short end of the stick:
With 31.3 seconds left in overtime and the Heat leading 101-100, Miami inbounds the ball, rags some clock and, after a couple of Heat screens, Dwyane Wade looks away from Ray Allen coming open off a curl to take a stepback 21-footer that misses. (Naturally.) Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard rebounds the miss with 12 seconds left and bowls it up the floor to Manu Ginobili. San Antonio had a timeout, but coach Gregg Popovich elected not to use it to get point guard Tony Parker (who appeared to be totally exhausted) back on the floor.
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Instead, Ginobili — who’d had a rough go of it to that point, with seven turnovers in 34 1/2 minutes — is free to attack Allen off the dribble, and he does, crossing left to get to the middle of the floor and toward the paint ahead of a back-checking Wade. Ginobili gathers, launches into a sea of white jerseys … and loses the ball, with Allen gaining possession and forcing San Antonio to foul with 1.9 seconds left. Allen would go on to make his two free throws, putting Miami up three; the Spurs’ try for the tie came up empty when Chris Bosh made his game-sealing block on Danny Green to close Game 6. (Spurs fans might not be thrilled about that play, either.)
Ginobili and Popovich were absolutely livid on the floor, contending that Allen had fouled the Argentinian by making contact with his right arm on the reach-in that resulted in Ginobili losing possession. Neither player nor coach commented on the play in their postgame press conferences, but teammate Tim Duncan echoed their on-court criticism in his media session.
“Honestly, the last play down the stretch there, it can go either way,” Duncan said. “We obviously believe it was a foul going down the middle. We get two free throws and we’re talking about something different here, if that happens.”
It’s a really tough play for the refs to officiate in real time, especially when one (Ken Mauer, yellow arrow) is trailing the play after Wade’s shot …
… and a second (Joey Crawford, also a yellow arrow) is effectively screened off by the bodies of Allen and Ginobili from his vantage point on the right sideline:
The key here is the third zebra, Mike Callahan, whose sightline to the ball is marked by the red arrow in the screencap above. From the baseline angle of the replay shown on the ABC telecast, Allen does appear to make contact with Ginobili’s right arm as he tries to strip the ball; and yet, Callahan seems to have a clear view of the reach from his own baseline angle, and still elects to keep his whistle in his pocket.
Then again, maybe Callahan did the in-the-moment moment math on what appears upon further review to be competing violations — a swipe from Allen and a clear traveling violation by Ginobili, who gathers the ball just inside the 3-point line and takes three big, obvious steps into the paint before elevating to attempt a shot, where the arm contact happened — and figured it was better to let the result of the play stand. It seems like a reasonable assessment to me … but maybe you view it differently.
Do you think Ginobili got the shaft on the no-call? Do you think the walk would’ve eliminated the call anyway? Do you think it’s all much ado about not much at all, since this individual play was not the reason the Heat won nor the cause of the Spurs’ loss? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
If the video above isn’t rocking for you, please feel free to check out the play elsewhere, thanks to SI.com’s Rob Mahoney.