The Oklahoma City Thunder’s incredible and surprising season came to an inauspicious end on Wednesday night when they fell to the Rockets in Game 7 by a 104-102 final.
They had two opportunities to tie or take the lead, but failed to even get a ball to the rim on either possession. For Chris Paul, it’s the latest in a career filled with close calls and near misses in the postseason, many of those have featured another figure in the proceedings. Referee Scott Foster and Chris Paul have, let’s just say, not the best working relationship and some contentiousness on the court at times. Foster was on the game Wednesday night and hit Paul with a delay of game penalty that befuddled the future Hall of Famer — there, of course, is some irony to Paul getting a delay of game when earlier this season he made headlines by effectively petitioning for a game-saving delay of game against the Wolves when Foster was calling that game too.
After the game, Paul wasn’t in the mood to defer on questions on the officiating, and accepted that a fine was coming his way as he got some things off of his chest about what went down on that delay of game call.
I asked Chris Paul about the officiating – specifically that delay of game call. He named Scott Foster as says he knows he’ll get fined.
A passionate response that includes “that shit don’t make no sense…we could have won the game” pic.twitter.com/w2MpKr3Uyr
— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) September 3, 2020
“Delay of game? It’s crazy, what’s been going on in the Bubble. Like, the replays, they show the replays sometimes so that, obviously, it’s an advantage if you can see the replay and then challenge. So, I dropped down to tie my shoe up and hope we see a replay, and Scott Foster walked over to me and told me, ‘Chris you ain’t gotta do that, I got ’em sweeping up the floor.’ OK, cool. So I start tying my shoe back up and he still called a delay of game. That sh*t don’t make no sense. I don’t know. That’s crazy, he just…we could’ve won the game. In that situation, the league knows. Yeah, they gon’ fine me, I said his name, we already know the history. It’s all good.”
Paul’s history with Scott Foster is well documented — entering the game, Paul’s team had lost nine straight playoff games reffed by Foster (the Rockets, in fairness, had lost seven straight, many of those with Paul, so neither team had a good history with him calling the game). And apparently, prior to the game Foster made the curious choice to remind Paul of that history that dates back well over a decade.
Thunder guard Chris Paul says referee Scott Foster made a point to tell him before the Game 7 loss to the Thunder tonight that he also reffed his Game 7 loss to the Spurs in 2008 when CP was with the Hornets.
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpears) September 3, 2020
The Thunder had ample opportunity to win the game, no matter what happened with the officiating, and the crew even got together on the final inbound play and called a foul that gave the Thunder a free throw to cut the lead to one, that Danilo Gallinari missed, and the ball back. Oklahoma City’s first gripe should be with its offensive execution down the stretch, as they were dismal in the halfcourt late against the Rockets, most notably on those final two plays where Luguentz Dort got blocked and they failed to get a shot up before the buzzer.
Still, it’s extremely strange if Foster would go up to Paul prior to the game and note he refereed his Game 7 loss to the Spurs 12 years ago. Even if the intention wasn’t malicious and was just a, “Hey, can you believe we’re still doing this all these years later,” thing, it could easily be read as an almost brag or a forewarning of what was to come. It only adds to a bizarre end to a game that was wild enough on its own.