NBA referee Joey Crawford drew the ire of Oklahoma City Thunder fans on Tuesday after he inadvertently “iced” Kevin Durant before a key free throw attempt in the team’s 100-99 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
The controversy began with 27.5 seconds in overtime of Game 5 of the Thunder-Grizzlies series. Durant drew a foul and was awarded a pair of free throw attempts. He made the first show, narrowing the margin to 100-99, earning a chance to tie the game on his second free throw attempt.
But as Durant prepared to shoot, Crawford blew his whistle, ran toward the Thunder star and took the ball away from him. When Crawford allowed the action to continue, Durant missed the second free throw, which allowed the Grizzlies to maintain their one-point lead and, ultimately, to secure a 100-99 win and a 3-2 series lead.
Apparently, the 62-year-old referee stopped the game after he noticed an error on the arena’s scoreboard. “I looked at [Kevin Durant], and we were like, ‘what is Joey doing?” Grizzlies guard Mike Conley said, via ESPN. “We were both kind of confused as to what was going on.”
According to ESPN, Crawford had asked the scoreboard operator to display the fact that both the Grizzlies and the Thunder were in the bonus, meaning that, if a player from either team was fouled, they would receive free throws regardless of whether or not the foul occurred during a shot attempt. When the scorer didn’t immediately update the scoreboard to indicate that, Crawford stopped Durant’s shot so the scoreboard could be corrected.
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Still, Durant was unwilling to blame Crawford for his missed free throw attempt. “I was just trying to stay focused and knock the free throw down; unfortunately I didn’t,” Durant said. “I don’t know what happened, but I’ve got to make that free throw.”
The Thunder forward took responsibility for his miss, but Thunder fans and NBA pundits alike asserted that Crawford “iced” Durant at a crucial point in the game. Several of these individuals took to Twitter to voice their complaints regarding Crawford’s behavior.
Joey Crawford just froze Durant.
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) April 30, 2014
Joey Crawford just ran up to basically block Durant's FT, and I have no idea why.
— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) April 30, 2014
Scott Brooks on Joey Crawford taking the ball away: "It was an awkward situation. I'll say that."
— Royce Young (@royceyoung) April 30, 2014
Durant’s late-game struggles weren’t limited to the free throw line. The 25-year-old also missed a last-second three pointer, and a tip-in by Serge Ibaka went in just after the buzzer sounded.
Center Marc Gasol spearheaded the Grizzlies’ efforts, scoring 11 points and adding 15 rebounds. Zach Randolph chipped in with a double-double of his own, while Mike Miller came off the bench to score 21 points on 5-of-8 shooting from behind the arc.
Game 6 of the Grizzlies-Thunder series will air on Thursday, May 1, at 8 p.m. ET.