Kevin Durant had a spectacular game for Oklahoma City Wednesday night helping the Thunder close out the Nuggets for their first playoff series victory in franchise history. Durant tied a playoff career-high with 41 points on 14-for-27 shooting and he closed with 16 points in the fourth quarter. But there was one moment where Durant made a mistake and the referees bailed him out.
The Thunder were inbounding the ball in the front court with about 15 seconds left and leading 98-97. Durant caught the ball in the front court, then his back foot stepped on the midcourt line (picture on the left), he took a dribble, and then he stepped on the line again (picture on the right). He was whistled for a backcourt violation but somehow the call was overturned.
Thanks to the bailout, the Thunder got the ball back and Durant hit a runner to make it 100-97 with 12 seconds left. Instead of shooting for the lead, the Nuggets were essentially forced into taking a three to tie — a much lower percentage shot.
Now just so you don’t think this is some hating on the refs by a Nuggets homer (I actually wanted OKC to win the series), here are the applicable rules from NBA.com that show the refs completely blew the call.
From Rule 4 Section VI:
b. A team’s backcourt consists of the entire midcourt line and the rest of the court to include the opponent’s basket and inbounds part of the backboard.
d. A ball being dribbled is (1) in the frontcourt when the ball and both feet of the player are in the frontcourt, (2) in the backcourt if the ball or either foot of the player is in the backcourt.
From Rule 8 Section III: “Any ball out-of-bounds in a team’s frontcourt or at the midcourt line cannot be passed into the backcourt. On all backcourt and midcourt violations, the ball shall be awarded to the opposing team at the midcourt line, and must be passed into the frontcourt.
EXCEPTION: During the last two minutes of the fourth period and/or any overtime period, the ball may be passed anywhere (frontcourt or backcourt) on the court.”
The above listed rule is the defense OKC fans have been using against the call. However, the picture below clearly shows that Durant had the ball in the front court before stepping on the midcourt line which would irrefutably trigger the backcourt violation:
Now matter how you view things, the refs initially made the right call but got it wrong when they reversed it. We can’t say Denver would have won the game, but they would have had a much better shot had they only been down one instead of three. It’s just another fortunate call for the Thunder, much like the Kendrick Perkins tip-in from Game 1.Google+