The talk should have been about how great that final play was, how all the pinwheeling around Brook Lopez was just a cunning misdirection for Lopez to pull off a sneaky push-off and create perhaps the league’s easiest shot: an open layup at the height of the jump.
Instead, the focus will lie squarely on Lopez’s clanked bunny, a shot he makes at some potent percentage high enough not to matter. It was a shot he should have made, arguing the particulars seems unimportant. The miss cost the Nets a chance at what would have been the biggest upset of the NBA season, and sent a winnable game beyond regulation; the Nets never stood a chance in the overtime, not after playing toe-to-toe with the defending champs for 48 minutes on the second half of a back-to-back.
Two controversial late calls might have been the only reason it even got that far.
The first was a non-call. With the Warriors down one, the Nets forced Stephen Curry into a tough running layup, which he missed. But after securing the rebound, the Warriors elected to trap Jarrett Jack in the backcourt, and Jack was whistled for an eight-second violation.
“When I looked at the shot clock, the shot clock was off and usually you try to equate the eight seconds with the shot clock being at 16,” Jack said, according to Newsday’s Rod Boone. “So when I looked up — and I wasn’t quite sure when I had grabbed the basketball and how much time had elapsed. But even still, man, I should have been smarter than that. I should have been able to call timeout in the backcourt, knowing that it was under two minutes and we had been able to advance the ball regardless of the time situation.”
But it was clear from the replays that Lionel Hollins attempted to call a time-out before the eight-second violation, one that was not acknowledged by the referees. Oracle Arena is notoriously one of the loudest arenas in the NBA, which might have contributed to Hollins’s unheard pleas. A livid Hollins made his fair case to the referees following the turnover, but it was too late to reverse the call.
The call ultimately didn’t matter much beyond taking time off the clock. Jack made a superb defensive play to make up for his violation, slapping away a Stephen Curry pass and hitting two free throws, putting the Nets up three with 11 seconds left.
That’s where the absurdity really started.
According to reporters at the arena, Lionel Hollins said the plan was to foul immediately in that situation, but that plan was not properly executed.
Hollins says they were "going to foul, but we didn't." Apparently the strategy was not executed.
— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) November 15, 2015
“The first person that caught the ball inbounds, I was gonna foul,” Hollins said to reporters (via YES Network) after the game.
Fouling would send a player to the free throw line for two shots, making it impossible for the Warriors to tie the game on that possession. One study is mixed on the effectiveness of fouling up three depending on the time left on the clock, but under ten seconds seems to be a good time to do it; the Warriors inbounded with 9.9 seconds on the clock.
It also requires timing and execution. Not fouling Stephen Curry, the fastest jack in Alameda County, quickly enough could end in him getting three free throws if he gets a shot up, or even a dreaded four-point play.
But the Nets didn’t foul the first person to catch the ball — a posted-up Draymond Green, career 69 percent free throw shooter. They also didn’t foul the second player to catch the ball — Andre Iguodala, a 62.5 percent free throw shooter in his three years with the Warriors.
The play the Warriors ran made it difficult for Johnson to foul Iguodala. Johnson rightfully took a step away as Iguodala set a screen that could’ve freed up Curry for a game-tying three. But Johnson still had time to foul, instead choosing to contest a pump-fake and then take his hands away from the play.
No one on the floor seemed to show any indication that they believed the plan was to foul.
“There was a lot of people talking in the timeout,” Young said, according to the New York Post. “but I definitely should’ve fouled Draymond, and as soon as Andre Iguodala caught the ball we should’ve fouled.”
Instead, Iguodala was able to set his feet, fire up a three, and tie the game at 97.
Despite all that, the Nets still had a chance to win, on that last play that set up the shot they wanted. But the execution wasn’t there, and the Nets finished with another hard-fought moral victory and a 1-9 record.