L.A. Sparks player Nneka Ogwumike hit the championship-winning shot with three seconds left Thursday night, breaking the hearts of the Minnesota Lynx.
But soon after Lindsay Whalen's desperation halfcourt heave smacked off the backboard, attention -- for Lynx fans, anyway -- turned back to a basket Ogwumike had scored about a minute earlier.
One that shouldn't have counted. With about a minute left, and the score tied 71-71, Ogwumike, guarded by Lynx star Maya Moore, received the ball on the left block.
At the time the ball hit her hand, there was just one second left on the shot clock. Ogwumike, this year's WNBA MVP, quickly rushed up a shot. Not quickly enough.
It bounced around and caromed in, giving the Sparks a 73-71 lead.
Replay would show definitively that Ogwumike didn't get the shot off in time, a fact the refs could have learned easily, had they stopped to review the moment.
Here's the angle from behind the play, which clearly shows her still holding the ball with 0 seconds remaining, and the backboard's red light illuminated. Lynx assistant coach (and Timberwolves TV color man) Jim Petersen calls the missed call "Inexcusable."
Inexcusable. pic.twitter.com/O1sMtgHfoy— Jim Petersen (@JimPeteHoops) October 21, 2016
Instead, play continued, with the Lynx eventually fighting back for a 76-75 lead off a Moore jumpshot, before Ogwumike's less-controversial putback gave the Sparks the title.
Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve started her postgame press conference saying she's "no less proud" of her team than she's been on the three occasions (2011, 2013, and 2015) the Lynx have won the championship.
Then Reeve, this year's WNBA Coach of the Year, immediately transitioned into a criticism of the officials' missing the shot clock call. But it wasn't just sour grapes: She also referred back to a crucial missed call that went in Minnesota's favor in Game 4, when refs missed an eight-second violation; the WNBA later admitted refs blew that one.
Reeve predicted the same less-than-satisfying response to Thursday's mistake.
"It's not fair to the players," she said. "It's not enough just to apologize and send out a memo that they got something wrong. These players are so invested and something must be done about the officiating in this league. Because it's not fair to these great players we have."
Reeve went on to commend L.A.'s players for their win, and acknowledged that the Sparks might still have won had Ogwumike's shot not counted.
"I don't want to take anything away from L.A.," she said. "But it hasn't stopped other teams from bitchin' and complainin' when it's happened in our favor. So we might as well get our bitchin' and complainin' as well."