The NBA has issued a mea culpa, acknowledging there were five violations – four of which were missed fouls – in the final 13.5 seconds of Game 2 of the San Antonio SpursOklahoma City Thunder playoff series. The admission changes nothing, except perhaps, the game officials assigned to the series for the rest of the way.

The game ended in a 98-97 home court loss for the Spurs, a game most would agree the Thunder deserved to win, shutting down every Spur starter except LaMarcus Aldridge who racked up 41 points. It was the worst playoff performance I can remember from Tim Duncan. Kawhi Leonard needed a big game, and didn’t deliver. Tony Parker was held to seven points. Manu Ginobili, coming off the bench, struggled. Click here for the box score and player stats.

Even outplayed, the Spurs repeatedly closed the gap and had their chances to sneak by with a win. Instead, victory slipped from the Spurs’ fingers in the closing seconds amid a cascade of missed foul calls, on-court chaos and a rare air ball from behind the 3-point arc by Patty Mills. I watched from Section 225 of the AT&T Arena. Even up high, several of the fouls committed by players on both teams were clearly visible, but it seemed like the Spurs got the worst of the bargain.

Missed calls or bad calls by the officials in any NBA game are part of the sport. Every fan recognizes the down-court makeup call that looks suspiciously like the refs making good on a bad call at the other end moments earlier. No one working for the NBA would ever admit it, but let’s hope the Spurs are the beneficiaries of sympathetic officiating in Oklahoma City on Friday night. Coach Gregg Popovich would probably dismiss such a wish as nonsense and point out the way to avoid being screwed by the refs in the closing seconds of a game is to build a solid lead and hold it.

But the NBA did admit, in so many words, that officials basically lost control of the Spurs-Thunder game in the final 13.5 seconds. The admission is rare in its acknowledgment of so many missed fouls, most of which were easy to spot by fans at the AT&T Arena and those watching at home. Having trouble putting away the loss while waiting for Game 3? Here is what the media had to say about the NBA admission and those five uncalled fouls in the final 13.5 seconds:

The Associated Press:  NBA: 5 incorrect non-calls at end of Spurs-Thunder game

New York Times: No Points in Chaotic 13.5 Seconds, but Five Missed Calls, the N.B.A. Says

ESPN: A high-tech room in New Jersey can (or can’t) decide NBA games

Mike Monroe: Scrambled Spurs: Thunder Hangs on in Wild Game 2 Finish

Jeff McDonald, Express-News: NBA officiating report: Spurs, OKC got jobbed

Buck Harvey, Express-News: Upon further review, Leonard took a step back

Read ’em and weep. At least you have your free Spurs flag handed out for Game 2.

Winning Game 3 will help ease the lingering pain Spurs fans are feeling. Winning the series will consign Game 2’s bizarre finish to the trivia list. Losing the series would turn those 13.5 seconds into something that will be hard to shake.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated there were five missed fouls during Game 2. There were five violations, four of which were fouls.

Top image: Spurs fans wave towels given to each ticket holder.  Photo by Scott Ball. 

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Scrambled Spurs: Thunder Hangs on in Wild Game 2 Finish

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Spurs Precision Produces in 124-92 Game 1 Win over Thunder

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Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report who retired in 2022, has been a working journalist for 46 years. He is the host of the bigcitysmalltown podcast.