It was the most dramatic ending to an NBA game this season. Karl-Anthony Towns had put the Timberwolves ahead, but with 8.9 seconds the Thunder had a chance — and Carmelo Anthony drained a three. Thunder fans celebrated, but Andrew Wiggins brought the ball back up court for the Timberwolves and had time to take a 30-foot shot — and he banked it in. Minnesota wins.
However, according to the NBA’s official two-minute report — which breaks down the officiating in the final minutes of close games — Wiggins got free for that shot because of an illegal screen by Towns.
Watch the play above. Wiggins brings the ball up the side of the court and Towns sets screen on Paul George that frees Wiggins to get his look. The league says that was an illegal screen because of how Towns’ feet were set. From the report:
While contact is hard, this is a close play in transition. Multiple angles show Towns (MIN) establishes a screening position in George’s (OKC) path before the contact and he absorbs the contact when it occurs. However, his stance is wide and contact occurs to his leg area, which makes the screen illegal.
With Towns set in position, I can’t imagine any referee calling an illegal screen in that setting.
The report also notes this after Anthony’s shot to put the Thunder ahead with 4.7 seconds left.
After the made shot, with no timeouts remaining for either team, Coach Thibodeau (MIN) can be seen quickly signaling a timeout behind the back of the slot official and then immediately waving his players up the court. By the time the referee is in a position to notice Thibodeau, he is not signaling a timeout and play moves up the court.
As was noted last season, this changes nothing. The league will not replay the end of the game because of this, the Timberwolves still win. This is just the NBA being transparent and admitting their mistakes.