The Oklahoma City Thunder won Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals at Oracle Arena last night, but the victory didn’t come without controversy. With 17.2 seconds left and the Thunder leading 105-102, Russell Westbrook sped up the court and as he tried to gather himself to call a timeout, traveled right in front of Steve Kerr and the Warriors bench.
Instead of calling a travel, referee Monty McCutchen issued a timeout to the Thunder. As the home crowd erupted, Westbrook was fouled following the timeout and hit one of two free throws to make it a two possession game. The Thunder ultimately won 108-102.
Following the game, NBA senior vice president of replay and referee operations Joe Borgia joined NBA TV and said that while Westbrook traveled, there were no officials in position to make the call.
“The officials, no one could get in a good position to see [Westbrook] drag that pivot foot,” said Borgia. “It’s an unfortunate miss, but so much going on in the play, the speed of it, and officiating is about getting angles and sometimes you just can’t get them, and they did not get a great angle on the play.”
During postgame press conferences, both Kerr and Westbrook were asked about the play and non-call.
“I thought he walked, but it wasn’t called, so that’s the way it goes,” said Kerr.
“I just play until I hear the whistle,” Russ responded bluntly.
Since March, the NBA has been making a “Last Two Minute Report” available for fans and media. Throughout the playoffs, officials have faced scrutiny for missed or blown calls, including several that have involved the Thunder. During the Western Conference Semifinals between the San Antonio and Oklahoma City, the Thunder benefitted from two no-calls. In Game 2, Dion Waiters was not called for throwing an elbow at Manu Ginobili during an inbounds play and in Game 5, referees did not call an intentional foul on Kawhi Leonard, allowing Westbrook to make a layup through contact for a three-point play.