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Spencer Dinwiddie’s questioning of non-calls in Nets’ loss to Thunder validated

Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie drives against Thunder guard

Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie drives against Thunder guard Russell Westbrook on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, in Oklahoma City. Credit: AP / Sue Ogrocki

MILWAUKEE — It turns out Spencer Dinwiddie was right to protest the non-call when he was knocked down while trying to cover what turned out to be Russell Westbrook’s winning basket with 3.3 seconds to go in the Thunder’s 109-108 victory over the Nets on Tuesday night in Oklahoma City. He also should have received the and-one foul shot when he scored a basket that gave the Nets a one-point lead with 7.8 seconds left.

That was the conclusion in Wednesday’s Last Two Minute Report, which is the NBA’s assessment of the accuracy of officiating calls in the final two minutes of each game. The report concluded that Dinwiddie was fouled by Oklahoma City’s Andre Roberson while driving for the go-ahead basket. Dinwiddie was covering Westbrook before the winning basket when Thunder star Paul George leveled him, clearing a path for Westbrook to the rim.

Immediately after the game, Dinwiddie ruefully said of the blindside hit by George, “It’s like that’s Russell Westbrook and that’s Paul George, and I’m Spencer Dinwiddie.”

When reporters mentioned after Thursday’s practice that his impression of the play was validated by the Last Two Minute Report, Dinwiddie smiled and said, “Honestly, I don’t ever feel like I’m wrong.”

Two days after the fact, Dinwiddie’s postgame frustration was replaced by a more pragmatic acceptance of the mistakes that were made.

“I understand the purpose of the Last Two Minute Reports, so it’s an honor to be confirmed,” Dinwiddie said. “Obviously, the league is going to continue to try to do the right thing as much as possible. We appreciate the efforts. Refs try hard; we try hard. Nobody’s perfect.”

Nets coach Kenny Atkinson praised the effort of the officials and chose not to criticize the calls that were missed. “I look at ourselves in the mirror, what we could have done better,” Atkinson said. “I think I could have done better as a coach.”

Specifically, Atkinson second-guessed himself on whether he should have gone to a zone defense to stop Westbrook’s winning basket and on whether he should have gone to a surprise option rather than sticking with Dinwiddie for a final desperation three-pointer that he missed against tough coverage by Roberson.

“Last year, we weren’t focused as much on end-of-game stuff because we weren’t in ends of games,” Atkinson said. “But now, it’s almost like this is great for our development and for my development and our staff’s development.

“With that end-of-game, you have to have a physicality. We have to understand that. I think we have to figure out how to execute better, and we worked on it today. Normally, we focus on development and defense. But now we’re in a position with our growth where I think we have to start focusing on that more.”

That might be the real lesson. The Nets have played a league-high 25 games decided by seven points or fewer, going 12-13 in those games. Starting with their New Year’s Eve loss at Boston, 11 of the Nets’ past 13 games have been decided by seven points or fewer. They are 5-6 in those games.

“As a unit, these are the best opportunities to learn, in the tough situations, trial by fire, all that,” Dinwiddie said. “It’s going to present a ton of growth for us moving forward, trying to finish off the season very strong.”

Told that Thunder coach Billy Donovan noted that the Nets have played better than their 18-30 record suggests and could have a much better mark with a few breaks, Dinwiddie grinned impishly and said, “If we look at the Last Two Minute Report, we’re probably like 23-and-something, 24, 25. Something like that.”

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