The Foul That Wasn't (But It Really Was)S

The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, who can't wait to see how David Stern fixes tonight's Pistons-Celtics game in favor of Boston. When he's not coming up with new NBA Finals conspiracy theories, he can be found humming a jaunty tune at Basketbawful. Enjoy!

No soup call for you! The Spurs had plenty of culprits in last night's Game 4 loss to the Lakers. There was Tim Duncan, who missed 16 shots. And Manu Ginobili, who scored only 7 points (2-for-8) and was an Obi-Wan Kenobi-like ghost of his Game 3 self. There were Fabricio Oberto, Michael Finley and Ime Udoka, who combined for zero points in almost 40 minutes of "action." There was Kurt Thomas and his mario. And, of course, there were the old legs that surrendered a 46-37 rebounding advantage and an Oliver Miller-sized edge in second chance points (26-4). But, in the end, the guiltiest parties may have been Joey Crawford, Joe Forte and Mark Wunderlich...the three wise(guy) monkeys who apparently could see no evil, hear no evil, and certainly couldn't call any evil.

It was a classic hump game for San Antonio. The home team fell behind by 14 in the first quarter, fought back to make it close, but could never quite overtake the Lakers. They trailed 93-86 with 50 seconds to play, then made a furious rally - thanks to a couple missed freethrows by Pau Gasol, a three by Manu, a miss by Kobe, and a goaltending call on Lamar Odom — to pull within 93-91 with 28 seconds to play. L.A. burned up most of the shot clock before Derek Fisher tossed up a jumper that was apparently all air, but the Spurs knocked the ball out of bounds. The Lakers inbounded to Kobe, who missed a rushed shot, and San Antonio snared the rebound with 2.1 seconds left. Plenty of time, right?

It was, too. Enough for Brent Barry — who turned back the clock with a 23-point performance — to catch, pump fake Fisher into the air, absorb the contact, and attempt a three-pointer. Two problems, though: Barry missed by a mile and the veteran officiating crew totally and completely blew the call. Now guess which ref was closest to the play...

Look, it was a foul. Marv Albert and Doug Collins knew it was a foul. Henry Abbott knew it was a foul. Freaking Helen Keller would have known it was a foul. But don't take my word for it. If you didn't watch it live, here's the video:

And that was the ballgame.

Of course, Fish didn't think it was a foul. "I think we met simultaneously, and there was contact for sure. But I don't think I ran through him." Suuuuure, Fish.

Credit the Spurs for being classy about the whole fiasco, though. Barry said "That's not going to get called in the Western Conference Finals" and Gregg Popovich added "If I was the official I wouldn't have called that a foul."

Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 28 points, 10 rebounds, and 1 lonely assist. Lamar Odom had a redemption game with 16 points, 9 rebounds, and near-perfect free throw shooting (8-for-9). The Mad Spaniard had 10 points, 10 boards, and 6 assists. Timmy D had 29 points and 17 rebounds for the Spurs, who also got 23 points and 9 assists from Tony Parker.

The final game of the series is Thursday in L.A.