You see it hundreds of times every NBA season. A coach motions for his player to cross half court before requesting a timeout.
And almost every time, a defender takes a swipe at the ball as timeout simultaneously is called.
Why half court?
Sideline out-of-bounds plays are a staple in the NBA. Teams run multiple plays out of a half-court set.
Because teams are granted the ball at the 28-foot hash for timeouts called in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter and/or any overtime period, in-bound plays frequently determine the outcome of games. Therefore, sideline OB plays are practiced constantly.
Why swipe at the ball?
Because it's not a timeout until the official says it's a timeout.
Players who assume timeouts and haphazardly handle the ball frequently have lost possession before timeouts actually are granted.
Denver's Andre Miller and Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers are two players notorious for stealing the ball on such occasions.
Midway through the second quarter of Game 2 on Wednesday, Houston guard Patrick Beverley swiped at the ball. In the process, the left side of his hip collided with the right knee of Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook had never missed a game in his NBA career but is now sidelined indefinitely after suffering a lateral meniscus tear in his knee.
“That's obviously terrible when someone like that goes down with an injury like that,” Rockets forward Chandler Parsons told the Houston Chronicle. “You never want that on anybody. I was completely shocked because he finished the game.
“Patrick tried to steal the ball before he called time out. It's not a dirty play at all. It's unfortunate he got hurt, but it's not like Pat did it on purpose. He was trying to help our team win the game. It wasn't malicious or anything. Pat just tried to take advantage of him calling timeout and not being ready.”
Houston team members insist the collision was incidental, while many on the Thunder side considered it a dirty play.
“A play like that, that always happens,” said Houston guard James Harden, who was Westbrook's teammate in OKC for three seasons. “In the game of basketball, when the opponent thinks a team is going to call time out, a guy is going to go for the steal. That happened in so many occasions, not just last game.”
Beverley called Westbrook one of the top three point guards in the NBA, but was unapologetic for what happened.
“A lot of people do it throughout the league,” Beverley told the Chronicle. “Anyone who knows me, I don't go out to try and hurt anybody. I play at one speed. That's fast. … I was just trying to make a play on the ball before they called timeout. A play like that is unfortunate right now. No intention at all to try to injury anybody.”
Beverley smiled and said he was unconcerned about the abuse he endured on Twitter throughout Friday.
“That type of pressure doesn't get me,” Beverley told the Chronicle. “The pressure I used to get growing up just walking to the corner store without something happening to me, I could really care less about any Twitter like that. It was hard going to school growing up some mornings. I can let this one from Twitter be.”