The Minnesota Timberwolves looked like they had the Oklahoma City Thunder beat on Friday night. With 1.1 seconds remaining in the game, Wolves star Karl-Anthony Towns stepped to the foul line for two shots with his team up two points. The Thunder, with no timeouts left, needed a miracle. They got it because of a brilliant and completely shameless maneuver by Chris Paul.
Towns missed the first free throw. After the shot, Minnesota subbed in Jordan Bell, who entered the game with his jersey untucked. Paul pointed at him and yelled for the referees to call him for a delay of game. They did, and because it was the Wolves’ second delay of game penalty on the night, Oklahoma City got a free throw. Danilo Gallinari stepped up and made the shot.
The Wolves were still up one with Towns left to shoot one more free throw. All he had to do was miss the shot and Minnesota would have won. Instead, Towns made the shot by accident to put the Wolves up two. Steven Adams then threw a perfect football-style inbounds pass to teammate Dennis Schroder, who made a layup and sent the game to overtime.
You can watch the entire sequence here:
The Thunder proceeded to take over in overtime and walked away with a 139-127 win. You could replay this scenario a thousand more times and Minnesota might have won every other time. For as incredible as Adams’ pass to Schroder was, the comeback doesn’t happen without Paul’s knowledge of the rule book and uncompromising competitive drive.
Chris Paul knew the rules and snitched on the Wolves
A player must have his shirt tucked in and be ready for play when he is entering the game. If his shirt is untucked when he is beckoned into the game by the official, a delay of game violation shall be assessed. On this play, the entering player, #2 in the white uniform, does not have his uniform tucked in when he enters the game. Note that should the violation be the second delay of game violation for the offending team, a technical foul would be assessed.
Paul is always the savviest guy in the room. The cameras caught him pleading with the refs to whistle Bell for the delay of game. At that point, the refs had no choice:
Chris Paul getting the officials to call a foul on a dead ball because Jordan Bell hadn't tucked in his jersey is max level CP3 pic.twitter.com/gZe3BrR7Yr— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) December 7, 2019
Paul said he knew the Wolves already had one delay of game penalty, so the next one would result in a technical foul. Here he is explaining the play to the media after the game:
Chris Paul breaking down the Jordan Bell untucked jersey he called out.— Erik Horne (@ErikHorneOK) December 7, 2019
Did he know the T-Wolves already had one delay of game earlier?
Has there ever been a moment that encapsulates Paul as a player better than this? Always the smallest guy on the court, Paul became one of the great players of his generation because of his intelligence and competitiveness. In the past, it’s led to accusations that he’s a dirty player trying to bend the rules to his will. In this instance, it worked in his favor and got the Thunder a win.
Paul also played one of his best games of the season
Lost in the late game controversy is that Paul played a masterful game, finishing with 30 points, seven assists, and four rebounds. He was incredible against the Wolves in every way possible.
At 34 years old, Paul remains an effective player. There has never been a better example of everything that makes CP3 who he is than what he did against the Wolves.