The Portland Trail Blazers would like to have a word with the NBA after one of the most bizarre endings of the season.
The team plans to file a protest with the league over its 111-109 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, specifically due to a sequence that saw head coach Chauncey Billups receive two technical fouls after unsuccessfully trying to call timeout.
The play in question occurred with less than 20 seconds left. The Blazers had the ball while leading 109-108 but saw guard Malcolm Brogdon get trapped near half-court. Billups, standing nearby at half-court, attempted to call timeout to bail out his veteran, but official Brandon Schwab apparently didn't see him until after Brogdon attempted to dribble out of the trap.
Schwab called Brogdon for the double-dribble, turning the ball over to the Thunder. Then it got worse for the Blazers.
An incensed Billups made contact with Schwab as he called the double-dribble and received a technical foul, then Billups got another technical foul as he continued to plead his case, resulting in an automatic ejection. Brogdon, too, appeared furious he didn't get a timeout.
Blazers HC Chauncey Billups was given two technical fouls at the end of the 4th, ejecting him from the game. 😬 pic.twitter.com/AMHn5LXTWS
— Bally Sports Oklahoma (@BallySportsOK) January 24, 2024
The end result was two free throws, possession of the ball for the Thunder and no head coach for the Blazers. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander proceeded to split the two free throws, tying the game 109-109.
Retaining possession after the free throws, the Thunder won the game on a jump shot by rising star Jalen Williams.
There have been more graceful losses for the Blazers, whose record fell to 12-31 in their rebuilding year.
After the game, each side attempted to argue their case.
Billups, via The Athletic's Andrew Schlecht:
“It was just a tough situation. We got timeouts. Referees usually are prepared for that, you know? That instance, that situation. I'm at half-court, trying to call a timeout. It's just a frustrating play. My guys play too hard for that.”
Brogdon, via Blazers team reporter Casey Holdahl:
“Chaunce, the whole staff, was calling timeout. I turned literally to the ref on the sideline, clearly the ref didn’t want us to have a timeout, so we couldn’t get one. I get scratched in the face, I’m bleeding at the end. This one’s not on us.”
And here's what crew chief Bill Kennedy had to say in an interview with a pool reporter:
QUESTION: Chauncey said after the game that he tried to call a timeout. Why was he not granted a timeout in that situation?
KENNEDY: The referee in the slot position was refereeing the double-team that was right in front of him, which makes it difficult for number one to hear and number two to see a coach request a timeout behind him. He is taught to referee the play until completion, which a double-dribble happens, and he correctly calls the double-dribble and then pursuant [to that] the technical fouls come forward.
The odds of the Blazers having their protest granted are slim, if not zero. Only six protests have been granted in NBA history, and the only one to be granted in the past 40 years was because the officials miscounted Shaquille O'Neal's fouls.
In this case, a protest is a symbolic gesture at best. The more likely outcome is Billups receiving an automatic fine for criticizing the officials.