In the NBA’s final game before the All-Star break, the Clippers faced the Celtics in a nail-biting double-overtime game that pitted two of the league’s top teams against each other. In the first overtime with the Los Angeles down three, Clippers’ guard Lou Williams spotted Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens telling his team that they had a foul to give before the Clippers could shoot free throws during a timeout. Williams proceeded to tell his teammates, “Once you catch the ball go into your shooting motion before they foul you.”
On the very next play, the Clippers inbounded the ball with 23.6 seconds left down 127-124. Williams caught the ball in the corner with Hayward closely guarding him. He hesitated before pulling up for a contested jump shot as Hayward fouled him. One official, Dedric Taylor, initially counted the basket and the foul but was quickly overruled by the officiating crew who deemed it a foul before the shot.
The Clippers were able to force a second overtime on the next play with a game-tying three from Landry Shamet but they eventually lost 141-133 and coach Doc Rivers was clearly frustrated after the team’s second straight road loss.
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“I thought the one call was huge, the no four-point play,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers told ESPN. “I don’t know what you have to do — that’s a shot. The officials are telling us that they had a foul to give so they were trying to foul. When you see the film, they clearly were not trying to foul. You can see Hayward bring his hands back up as the guy is going up. But you can anticipate that they’re going to commit a foul. … That was a big no-call.”
Rivers later added, “I just didn’t like the fact that the guy on the call called it good. The guy that was right on the call called it good. The two other officials, Scott [Foster] from the other side comes running over. I think the guy on the call should have the say. It is what it is.
Williams finished with 35 points, eight assists, six rebounds and two blocks. He also scored 11 straight at one point in the fourth quarter. Williams told the media about his approach before he attempted the three pointer in the first overtime.
“He said they had a foul to give, and I said duh, I know that, too,” Williams said of the official’s explanation of the call. “That’s why I went into my shooting motion. Sometimes in this league you understand the rules and so you try to beat the rules. I think we’re taking away some of that in our game with anticipating the calls or anticipating the scenarios where they’re up three points and we know they’re going to take a foul. I’m watching Brad Stevens tell them that they have a foul to give, so once I saw that I looked over at everybody that I thought was going to shoot the ball and said, ‘Once you catch the ball, go into your shooting motion before they foul you. That’s a heads-up play. It wasn’t a swing-through, it wasn’t any of the things that they’ve banned, so I don’t understand why it wasn’t a good bucket.”
Paul George informed Rivers at halftime that his hamstring was bothering him and sat out the entire second half. George had previously missed ten games in January with hamstring issues and the Clippers decided not to gamble with the six-time NBA all-star’s health.
“He said it wasn’t bad,” Rivers told the Los Angeles Times. “I said, ‘You shouldn’t have told me that.’ I don’t think he wanted to come out. But once you tell me your hamstring, you feel anything, we have an All-Star break coming up, it’s a no-brainer for us.”
As a side note, the Celtics were propelled by Jayson Tatum’s 39 points and nine rebounds including ten points in the overtime periods. Boston heads into the all-star break with a 38-16 record sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference. The Clippers fell to 37-18 and are third in the Western Conference.