Keldon Johnson of the San Antonio Spurs understood he needed to make a play.
With 6.8 seconds left on Tuesday night, following a putback dunk by Victor Wembanyama that reduced the Phoenix Suns’ lead to just one point, Suns guard Josh Okogie tossed the ball in to Kevin Durant, causing Johnson to jump out of bounds in the process of trying to make the play.
Tre Jones of the Spurs guard stopped Durant from moving forward as he gripped the ball in anticipation of a San Antonio foul. With 1.2 seconds remaining, Johnson returned to the game, snatched the ball from Durant, and drove the hoop to lay it in, giving the Spurs a one-point lead.
On the subsequent possession, Durant was unable to get a clear shot, and the Spurs pulled off a 20-point rally to win 115-114.
“I seen Tre had him in the corner, and I was just like, s—, let’s make a play,” Johnson said. “The worst that could happen was they call the foul and they shoot free throws. But we had to make something happen. Time was running down. So my mindset was just make a play on the ball and, after that, just try to finish it.”
The Suns had a different perspective on the finish.
“Yeah, they fouled him. The refs didn’t call it,” Suns coach Frank Vogel told reporters after the game. “They whacked him on the arm, before the ball gets ripped out of his hands, no call. But in a situation like that, we try to get the ball inbounds to our 90% free throw shooter. And we did. But it didn’t work out.”
Vogel stated that because Okogie’s inbounds pass to Durant was a “safe only” inbounds play, the club decided not to use the timeout. If Durant could get the ball there safely, Okogie was just intended to inbound it to him; Durant did so prior to the Johnson steal.
Upon hearing Vogel claim he was fouled, Durant said he must “hold on to the ball.”