SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich spun around, braced against the scorer’s table, and stared at the floor in disbelief, knowing that with seven-tenths of a second left, this call might cost his team.
After catching the ball on the inbounds pass, Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol saw the Spurs’ Rudy Gay somewhat out of position as he rushed over to defend. Gasol initiated contact with a shoulder to draw a non-shooting foul, which led to free throws because both teams were in a bonus situation.
Gasol proved Popovich’s intuition correct, sinking two free throws to lift Memphis to a 104-103 win in a wild finish that left Spurs players in the locker room watching their words afterward, being careful not to criticize the officiating.
“Don’t put me in that position,” LaMarcus Aldridge said. “Yeah, we can take that tough calls are going to be made, and tough calls are going to be missed.”
That’s exactly how some of the Spurs players viewed the way Wednesday’s loss transpired.
After Gasol knocked down the free throws to put Memphis ahead, the Spurs called a timeout to draw up one last play for the final shot. With DeMar DeRozan throwing the inbounds pass, Aldridge took possession and fired a 26-footer. Gasol appeared to make contact with Aldridge as the Spurs veteran fell backward onto the floor, looking for a call that never came, while his shot at the buzzer fell short of the basket.
“I thought it was a foul — not even thought — it’s a foul,” DeRozan said. “Especially with Marc, it was a foul. That’s just my opinion. I’m pretty sure everybody here agrees with me as well. But right is right, wrong is wrong. Nothing we can do about it now.”
DeRozan added that if the call was made against Gay, then “you’ve got to call” a foul on Gasol during Aldridge’s attempt at the buzzer.
“It’s the right call to make,” he said.
Many in the San Antonio locker room felt there was more significant contact from Gasol on the no-call during Aldridge’s final shot than the foul on Gay that sent Gasol to the line to win the game.
“What I say is, there was more contact [on my buzzer attempt] than what they called on Rudy, that’s for sure,” Aldridge said.
In a game that featured four technical fouls, with three called on the visiting Grizzlies, even Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff made mention of the officiating unsolicited.
“It was a wild game,” Bickerstaff said. “It was a hell of a game though. Both teams were getting after it. We’ll leave the referees out of it for tonight, and we’ll give the players on the floor, the people who get paid to play on the court, and the people that pay to see them, we will give them the game.”
The Spurs fought back from a 10-point deficit and led by one point with 1.2 seconds left in a contest that featured 22 lead changes and 10 ties.
Gay lamented what he perceived as the inability for San Antonio to have a final say in the result.
“It just sucks because we came from such a hole,” he said. “We worked our asses off, and it’s crazy that one play can define the whole game. Give them respect. They played well. But I think we should’ve won that game. That last play is going to stick with me personally, I think with a lot of us. So it just sucks that as hard as we worked, we couldn’t even have anything to do with the outcome of the game.
“They just let him bait them in. Marc is that kind of player. He’s aware to where he puts the game in your hand, and you don’t make the right call. That’s tough for us. We’re sitting here with a loss because of it. On one, you’re not making a basketball move. On the other one, you’re shooting a shot, and there’s no call. So, you make your own decisions on that, what you think.”