NBA: Refs missed key Draymond Green violation late in Warriors’ Game 5 win

Gary Payton II was the unsung hero of the Warriors’ series-clinching 102-98 win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night at Chase Center, but a day later, one of the biggest shots of the game shouldn’t have counted.

The NBA released the Last Two Minute Report for Game 5 between the Warriors and Nuggets and the referees missed one very big call down the stretch.

Per the NBA, Draymond Green should have been called for a three-second violation on Payton’s 3-pointer that put the Warriors up 97-92 with 1:05 remaining in the fourth quarter.

“Green (GSW) is in the lane for longer than three seconds,” the NBA wrote.

With just over a minute remaining in regulation and the Warriors clinging to a two-point lead, they got into their offense and swung the ball around to Green in the paint. It appeared the four-time NBA All-Star had an easy layup attempt but Jeff Green rotated over and was in good defensive position, so Draymond kicked the ball out to Payton on the wing beyond the 3-point line.

Payton swung the ball to Andrew Wiggins in the corner, who drove baseline but kicked the ball back to Payton. The ball was fumbled and with the shot clock winding down, the 29-year-old hoisted a 3-pointer and made it.

During that whole sequence, Green didn’t vacate the lane until the ball left Payton’s hands.

But if the violation had been called on Green, the Nuggets would have gotten the ball back down two rather than down five.

On the ensuing possession, reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokić made a nine-foot hook shot to make the score 97-94.

Green took some criticism for not taking the shot and passing to Payton, but he defended his decision to pass and spoke about his faith in Payton to hit big shots

“More importantly, I trust that GP can make that shot,” Green said late Wednesday night on his podcast. “It was such a terrible pass, so he had no luck at even shooting it anyway. The ball was on a nose-dive right to the ground. It was actually an incredible catch by him. Then he swung it to Wiggs, Wiggs drove. And Wiggs actually threw him another terrible pass that went nose-diving into the ground. He got it, he kept his poise and he knocked it down.”

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Payton finished with a career playoff-high 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field in 26 minutes off the bench. He made three of his four 3-point attempts in the win.

Who knows how the outcome of Game 5 might have changed had the refs called Green for “three in the key.” That’s the downside to the Last Two Minute Report. There’s nothing that can be done about the missed call in hindsight.

The Warriors might still have won the game even if the violation had been called, but they caught a huge break that helped them close out the Nuggets and advance to the Western Conference semifinals. Every team just needs a little bit of luck in the NBA playoffs.

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