OKLAHOMA CITY — In a chaotic, controversial final 1.1 seconds of regulation, a delay of game, a Hail Mary and a buzzer beater all combined to force an overtime that led to the Oklahoma City Thunder shocking the Minnesota Timberwolves 139-127 on Friday.
With 1.1 seconds remaining and the Thunder down two points, Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns stood at the free throw line with an opportunity to ice the game. He missed his first attempt, and the Wolves sent forward Jordan Bell to check into the game.
As Bell walked into the game, his jersey was untucked, and Thunder guard Chris Paul loudly alerted referee Scott Foster of it.
“Jersey out! His jersey’s out! That’s a delay of game!” Paul yelled. Foster took notice, and called the Wolves for a delay of game. “Damn right,” Paul said after Foster made the call.
It was Minnesota’s second delay of the game — Towns had been called for one in the first half for not having wraps on his knees unwrapped before he was signaled to check into the game — which resulted in an automatic technical foul.
Following the call, Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari hit the free throw to cut the Wolves lead to one. With the Thunder out of timeouts, Towns was supposed to miss the second free throw attempt, but the ball clattered around the rim and fell through to put Minnesota up two.
Thunder center Steven Adams quickly grabbed the ball as it passed through the net and called a hot route, launching a full court one-handed pass to guard Dennis Schroder. Like a wide receiver creating separation, Schroder gave a nudge to Jeff Teague, caught the pass and hit a layup as the buzzer sounded to send the game to overtime.
“I ain’t never been a part of something like that,” Towns said. “I’ve been a part of a lot basketball games in my life, but never seen something like that happen. And I’m not talking about the call, I’m just talking about the execution of everything going down.”
In overtime, the Thunder’ outscored the Wolves 17-5, with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scoring 11 of his 29 points in the extra frame. Five Thunder players finished with 20 or more points, the first time that feat has been accomplished by any team since 2004.
After the game, Paul wasn’t shy about his savvy move to alert the officials of Bell’s jersey being out. As he walked over for his media availability, he heard people talking about it and pointed out, “Yeah, I told them his jersey was untucked. I know the rules.”
“That happens more often than not, and sometimes refs will just be like ‘whatever,’ but that is the rule,” Paul said. “If you check in with your jersey untucked, it’s a delay of game.”
Asked if he was aware the Wolves had already been called for one earlier in the game, Paul responded emphatically: “Yuuup.”
The other layer to the call is Paul’s checkered history with Foster. Paul has publicly criticized Foster on multiple occasions, saying in 2018, “He the man. That’s who they pay to see.”
Asked if he found it ironic who he was campaigning to, Paul finished the question.
“Scott Foster,” he said. “Kinda crazy, huh? My agent already texted me that.”
Bell declined multiple requests to speak with reporters after the game, saying, “I’ll save my money” as he walked by.
“He had just come out of the game, so I don’t know if his jersey got pulled when he was on the court, because it was physical game,” Wolves coach Ryan Saunders said. “There’s a lot of things to worry about during the game and management with things. His jersey came untucked and they called delay of game.”
There was initial confusion over the call, with some Wolves players claiming in the locker room after the game they still didn’t know why.
“I personally, honestly, I don’t know why it was called,” Towns said.
Informed it was for Bell’s untucked jersey, Towns said, “OK. I don’t know if you want me to get a fine or some s—, but I’m not getting a fine. I can’t change it now. So, OK.”
Foster explained the call, saying: “Jordan Bell came into the game with it untucked and down to his knees at midcourt, observed by myself and then [referee] Mark [Ayotte] from trailing me, and then it was assessed a technical foul.”
Following the delay of game, paired with Adams hitting Schroder on the go route, the Wolves were shell-shocked and unable to rally for overtime. According to ESPN Stats & Info data, the Wolves had a 98.3% chance to win the game after Towns missed his first free throw.
“Obviously we showed you [how difficult it was to respond],” Towns said. “We didn’t play well in overtime at all. We put all marbles into that one second and let our guard down, and we never picked it back up.”
The Wolves’ locker room was bleak postgame, with players sitting silent, holding their heads in their hands. With regard to the call, though, everyone took the high road.
“I thought we did enough to win that basketball game. We played well enough to win that basketball game,” Saunders said. “We’re going to pick ourselves up and be better. But it hurts.”
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