Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook made a crucial mistake in the closing seconds of Game 4 of the 2012 NBA Finals, fouling Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers with less than five seconds remaining on the shot clock, giving Chalmers the opportunity to go to the free throw line and turn it into a two-possession game. The Heat went on to win Game 4 104-98 to take a 3-1 series lead.
The play occurred when Heat forward Udonis Haslem tipped a jump ball to Heat forward Shane Battier, who in turn tapped it Chalmers with 17.3 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. The Heat were leading 101-98 at the time. In the scramble for the loose ball, Westbrook gave the foul on Chalmers rather than forcing the Heat to get a shot up with just seconds remaining on the shot clock and with their offense disorganized after the jump ball.
After the game, Thunder coach Scott Brooks and Westbrook both chalked it up to a communication failure, as the Thunder clearly wanted to play defense rather than foul in that time/score situation.
"It was a tough play, you know," Brooks said. "Could have been a communication thing. That play, I tell our guys, one play does not determine the outcome of a game. There's 200 plays involved in every basketball game, it doesn't come down to one play. It was a tough play, but we move on from it, but learn from it and move on from it. I thought Russell was terrific tonight. The guy played relentless, was aggressive. He kept us in this game, and he gave us a chance to win."
"It was just a miscommunication on my part," Westbrook said. "Nothing I can do about it now."
The mistake marred an amazing night from Westbrook, who scored a game-high 43 points and added seven rebounds and five assists on 20-for-32 shooting in 45 minutes.
The Thunder's All-Star point guard has been a lightning rod for criticism over the last two seasons but he made it clear to CBSSports.com's Greg Doyel that media commentary did not affect his outlook or play.
"Let me get this straight," he said. "What you guys say doesn't make me happy, make me sad. It doesn't do anything. It's all about my team and us winning the game. I don't have a personal challenge against you guys. It's not me against the world. It's not the world against me. It's me and my teammates trying to win."
Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals will be played at American Airlines Arena in Miami on Thursday night.