BOSTON — Things could have gone very different late Thursday night at TD Garden.
The end result was a 141-133 win for the Boston Celtics over the Los Angeles Clippers in double overtime. However, a controversial foul call in the first overtime period ultimately had an impact on the game.
With just under 25 seconds to play and the Clippers down 127-124, Marcus Morris tossed an inbounds pass to Lou Williams in the corner. Williams was closely marked by Gordon Hayward, but ended up getting a shot off, with Hayward fouling him. Williams knocked down the shot, and the official on the baseline called a shooting foul on Hayward, which would have given the Clippers a chance to go ahead on a 4-point play.
But the other officials, most notably Scott Foster, went running over and had it reviewed, ultimately deciding the foul was on the floor. And with the Celtics having a foul to give at that point, the end result was the shot not counting and thus no free throws, just another inbounds pass.
The Clippers did respond, with Landry Shamet hitting a game-tying triple to force a second OT. But had the foul been considered shooting, the Clippers might have escaped with a win.
“I thought the one call was huge — the no-4-point play,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said after the game. “I don’t know what you have to do — that’s a shot. And when the officials are telling us that they had a foul to give, so they were trying to foul, and when you see the film they clearly were not trying to foul, you could see Hayward bring his hands back as the guy was going up. But you can’t anticipate that they’re going to commit a foul and (the refs) did that. And I thought that was a big no-call.
“You can’t challenge it,” Rivers later said. “I just didn’t like the fact that the guy on the call called it good. The guy that was right on the call called it good. And the two other officials, Scott (Foster) from the other side comes running over — I think the guy on the call should have the say. It is what it is.”
Williams, who lit into the officials in the immediate aftermath, was similarly frustrated.
“He said they had a foul to give, and I said ‘Duh, I know that too. That’s why I went into my shooting motion,'” Williams said. “Sometimes in this league, you understand the rules, so you try to beat the rules. I think we’re taking away something in our game — anticipating the calls, anticipating the scenarios. They’re up three points, we know they’re going to take a foul and I told all of my teammates ‘I’m watching Brad Stevens tell them that they have a foul to give. So once I saw that I looked over at everybody that I thought was going to shoot the ball and I said ‘Once you catch the ball go in your shooting motion before they foul you.’ It’s a heads up play. It wasn’t a swing-through, it wasn’t any of the things they’ve banned, so I don’t understand why it wasn’t a good bucket.”
Montrezl Harrell echoed Williams’ frustrations.
“It was a bad call, man,” Harrell said. “I’m not trying to say anything to get fined or anything like that, but when we was in the huddle and we said that, you know, they had a foul to give and you get to get the ball in a shooting motion and you go straight up, that’s when we did. He caught the ball on the 3-point line. They tried to trap him at first and start shooting and stick your hand in there and it’s a four-point play all day long.
“But I mean, it’s just tough when you have an official on the other side of the court that runs all the way over to overturn the call. It happened twice. It happened with that play; it happened with me standing in to take a charge. So you live and you learn, mean. You move on from it. You can’t do anything about it. Tough call. That’s why they’re bang-bang plays, but hey, what can you do about it.”
Of course, the Celtics ended up winning by eight in overtime, so it’s not like the Clippers didn’t have a chance to finish the deal. Nevertheless, it was a game-altering call.
Fair or unfair.
During Rivers’ media availability in the hallway outside the locker rooms, Hayward actually walked out. That prompted Rivers to jokingly give Hayward a hard time.
Rivers (smiling and looking at Hayward): “Gordon knows he fouled him.”
Hayward: “That was close, that was close.”
Rivers: “Let me say this, when NBA players says it’s close (it means it’s a foul) — I’m just joking. Good luck on the break, enjoy the break.”
At least Doc is taking it in stride.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images