The Thunder was 50 seconds from facing an elimination game Thursday.
Paul made a fadeaway jumper to put the Clippers ahead, 104-97, with 49.2 seconds remaining. It was a shot that surprisingly sent fans inside Chesapeake Energy Arena heading for the exits.
But Kevin Durant, who struggled with his shot all game, buried a 3-pointer off a feed from Westbrook to trim the deficit to four. Jamal Crawford missed a layup, and Westbrook rebounded the ball and got it to Durant who converted a fast break layup that pulled the Thunder within 104-102 with 17.8 seconds remaining.
Westbrook’s final shot was set up by a controversial ruling by the officials. Reggie Jackson drove to the basket for a layup following Westbrook’s steal on Paul but lost the ball out of bounds when Clippers forward Matt Barnes poked his hand in and stripped it away. The ball was last touched by Jackson but the officials allowed the Thunder to retain possession and Westbrook to get one final shot that ultimately could be what ends a tumultuous Clippers season.
“I did see it. I saw four or five replays,” Brooks said. “One of the things I know, Reggie did get fouled. The ball, I couldn’t tell who the ball was hit off of. One of the things they have with replay system with referees if it’s non-conclusive they have to go with what they call. I couldn’t tell on my replays. Maybe they had different replays than we had. But on the four or five that I looked at, I could not tell who hit the ball out.”
NBA rules state, “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.”
“(Referee) Tony Brothers looked at me and said, “The replay that they showed us had it off y’all,’” Paul said. “I don’t know. I guess you assume that they see the same ones that everybody in the arena sees. That don’t matter. We shouldn’t have been in that situation.”