PORTLAND — There were 84 field goals recorded Monday night in the Rose Garden, but the one that everyone left talking about never actually slipped through the net.
The Trail Blazers suffered just their second home defeat of the season when they lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder in overtime 111-107.
However, if not for a controversial goaltending call with six seconds remaining in regulation, the game would have likely yielded a different result.
“I didn’t think it was goaltending. I thought it was a clean block,” Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. “That game should have been over.”
The call in question took place when LaMarcus Aldridge pinned Kevin Durant’s layup attempt against the backboard. The ball was clearly still on its way up, and had not touched the glass before Aldridge swatted it away.
Additionally, Scott Foster, the referee who blew the whistle, was farther away from the play than either of his two counterparts.
The Rose Garden fans booed heartily after the call and again expressed their disgust upon the game’s completion. Aldridge, meanwhile, tried to keep his feelings neu
tral. That didn’t last very long.
“It didn’t hit the glass first. I thought the definition of goaltending was if it the glass first, but I put it on the glass, so I thought it was a clean block,” said Aldridge, who initially answered “it doesn’t really matter at this point,” when asked about the call. “The ref who called it was the farthest from the basket, so that was interesting. … I told them ‘y’all should go look at (the replay)’ and they were like ‘nope’.”
Durant’s two points tied the game at 103-103, giving Portland one last chance to win in regulation. However, Nicolas Batum’s layup contested layup missed, and the game went to the extra period.
The Thunder, who own the best record in the NBA at 19-5, jumped out to a four-point lead within the first two minutes of OT. But a Jamal Crawford jumpshot brought the Blazers to within two, and with seconds remaining, Portland got the ball back with a chance to tie or take the lead with a 3-pointer.
Aldridge, who led all scorers with 39 points, received the ball in the low post, but kicked it out to Kurt Thomas when he drew a double team. Thomas, who mishandled the pass, then swung it to Crawford, who missed a 15-footer with nine seconds remaining.
Durant then closed out the game with a fast-break slam dunk.
After the game, McMillan was asked whether Aldridge should have taken the shot despite the double team. Answered the coach: “I thought he was pretty deep. That’s certainly where we wanted to go. And when you get that opportunity, you gotta put it in the hole.
In some respects, the Blazers (14-11) were fortunate to even have an opportunity to win it in regulation or tie it in overtime. After all, they trailed by 12 points with just over a minute to go in the third quarter before inching their way back into the contest.
Batum eventually evened the score by hitting a 3-pointer with 6:52 left, pumping his fist emphatically after the ball dropped through.
Aldridge, who scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and two in overtime, produced Portland’s next eight points and put the Blazers up by six with 2:18 left.
Then, Durant hit a 3-pointer. Shortly after, Russell Westbrook connected on 3 of 4 free throws to tie the score.
Crawford knocked down a 15-footer to give the Blazers a two-point lead, but then the notorious goaltending call occurred.
And believe it or not, Thunder coach Scott Brooks wasn’t so perturbed by the whistle.
“It’s a hard game. We won the game. I’m happy we won the game,” Brooks said. “I don’t think one call is a difference-maker. There are a hundred plays in each game, and we did a pretty good job.
The loss moves Portland to 11-2 at home, tied for the fourth best mark in the league. Wesley Matthews had 18 points for the Blazers, who were missing starting point guard Raymond Felton due to a foot sprain. Crawford added 17, while Gerald Wallace was held to nine.
Durant led the Thunder with 33 points while Westbrook added 28.
The Blazers next play Wednesday at home vs. Houston.
Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or firstname.lastname@example.org