As Tuesday night’s wild Game 5 neared its apex, Joey Crawford took center stage.
The infamously eccentric referee stopped Kevin Durant before his second free throw in the final minute of overtime, sprinting toward to the superstar and pulling the ball from him as he readied for the crucial shot. Crawford then stomped over to the scorer’s table and had a long and animated discussion, delaying the game.
Minutes later, Durant would miss the crucial free throw. “An awkward situation,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks called it.
But, according to former NBA referee Steve Javie, Crawford was in the right.
“When (Memphis) fouled Kevin Durant, they were in the penalty situation,” Javie said on an ESPN segment. “The scoreboard should reflect that and have the number five.”
“Players and coaches look at the scoreboard look to see if they have a foul to give or they’re in the penalty situation,” Javie continued. “…If Joey doesn’t correct this, then all of a sudden, if Kevin misses the shot, we have a rebounding scenario where one team might think they can foul and the other team might think they can’t.”
WHY IS WESTBROOK LAUNCHING THREES LIKE HE’S A SHARPSHOOTER?
Entering play on Wednesday, the NBA’s postseason 3-point attempt leaderboard was expectedly filled with sharpshooters.
Steph Curry and Durant have both taken 42, tops in the league, and James Harden was next at 41. But right behind that dead-eye trio comes Russell Westbrook, who has taken 38 threes, two more than Atlanta Hawks’ sniper Kyle Korver.
One of those things is not like the other.
Among the 16 players who have taken at least 24 threes entering Wednesday, Westbrook’s 18 percent clip (7-of-38) is by far the lowest.
“It’s the (type of) threes I look at,” Brooks said, defending Westbrook’s shot selection. “The kickout threes where he’s wide-open, he’s worked on that shot even though he’s not making it right now. Those are the ones we want as a group. He has the ability to make that.”
A ton of Westbrook’s misses, though, have been of the pull-up, contested variety, coming after little to no offensive movement. Those would seem to be inexcusable.
“He’s an attack player,” Brooks said. “He’s gotta get to the paint, gotta get to the free throw line.”
STAT OF THE DAY
Per Elias Statistics, Westbrook was the first player in NBA history to have at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in the same game that he also missed at least 20 shots.
STAT OF THE DAY II
Per NBA.com, the Thunder and Grizzlies have played 37 minutes in the clutch this series. “Clutch” is defined as a margin of five points or less within the final five minutes.
STAT OF DOOM
Teams leading 3-2 in a best-of-7 NBA series go on to win 85.9 percent of the time (225-37).
Derek Fisher on the Thunder’s inconsistent effort: “In the playoffs, there has to be a sense or urgency that just doesn’t wane. It’s just always on level 100. You can then work your way through everything else, work through bad shooting percentages, turnovers.”
GAME 5 SETS NBA TV RECORD
Tuesday’s Game 5 on NBA TV averaged 939,000 total viewers to become the most-viewed telecast in the network’s history. The telecast averaged more than 1 million viewers from 9:15 to 9:30 p.m. The network record had been 920,000 viewers for a Miami Heat-Indiana Pacers game this year, a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals.
Game 7 tip time
If Game 7 is necessary, it will be a 7 or 7:30 tip on Saturday night in Oklahoma City. If it’s the only game that day, it’ll be a 7:30 tip. If there are others, be it either a Clippers-Warriors or Hawks-Pacers Game 7, the Thunder-Grizzlies would tip at 7. It’ll be televised on TNT.