Game 4 of the 2012 NBA Finals was an absolute thriller. LeBron James fought through a painful cramp to hit the go-ahead shot. Dwyane Wade was spectacular down the stretch. Russell Westbrook single-handedly kept the Thunder in the game with 43 points and so many huge plays. Sadly, though, the game ended with a costly brain fart by Westbrook that sabotaged his team's chance to hit a potential game-tying shot.
With the Thunder down three points with 17 seconds left, James Harden forced a jump ball with Udonis Haslem with the shot clock running down. Because the play happened with less than one second before the buzzer, the shot clock would be reset to five seconds if the Heat won the jump ball. That meant the Thunder just needed to get a stop to have a chance to get the ball back and tie the game.
Westbrook, however, forgot that. Thinking the shot clock had reset once the Heat won the tip, Westbrook ran right to Mario Chalmers to commit an intentional foul that ultimately cost his team a chance to tie the game.
Chalmers hit the two free throws, and the Thunder never recovered, ultimately losing, 104-98. This was the moment Westbrook realized his error.
Westbrook will take a lot of criticism for forgetting the rule, and he'll deserve it. However, Thunder coach Scott Brooks also deserves blame for not properly reminding his team of the situation. It's the job of the coaching staff to instruct the players on whether to foul or not foul in late-game situations. The players have so much rolling through their heads that they simply can't do it alone. This applies to 33-year-old players as much as it applies to 23-year-old players.
While Westbrook is ultimately the man responsible for the gaffe, it reflects just as poorly on Brooks.
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