Note: Given the length of this game and the egregious nature in which the Cavs were hosed by the refs, this is going to be a two part recap (maybe). Here’s Part 1:
I’ve spent a lot of time not trying to live and die by sports: Football, the Cavs, the NBA, the over thirty rec league at the Y, and pickup games with junior high kids. I’ve tried not to scream “MISS!” at the top of my lungs at terrified JV high school girls as I’m closing out on a 3. I’ve tried not to yell at the TV. I’ve tried not to get worked up about calls. I’ve tried. I think that’s one reason I fast forward through games now. The artificiality removes some of the drama, and distills the basketball down to an emotionally manageable form. But I watched tonight’s game in real time, agonizing through commercials and all: through the game’s dizzying highs and mind boggling lows. I was prepared for valiant defeat or glorious victory. But sometimes the universe is unfair — well, most of the time. The Cavs were hosed on three separate calls at the end of Saturday’s game, any one of which could have won it. These are not problems that will cost anyone their job or life. This is not peace in the middle east or finding enough food to eat. These are what Chris Rock calls, “White People Problems.” But I’m still stewing.
Call #1: About 30 Seconds left in regulation. Aldridge puts up a lame shot on which he is fouled. The equator of the ball is parallel with the rim at least 6 inches away from the basket on the way down, when Tristan Thompson makes a stupid play to swat it out of bounds. The Refs call goaltending and look at the play for no less than 2 minutes (I honestly don’t even know if the call is reviewable). According to the rules, for a shot to be called a goaltending, “the ball, in the judgment of the official, must have a chance to score.” Now if by “chance,” you’re thinking of Lloyd Christmas’s chances of getting in Mary Swanson’s pants at the end of Dumb and Dumber, you’d be about right. Then you’d have about the 1 in a billion probability that matches what the ball had of of going into the basket through some weird trick of rotational physics or TNT going off somewhere on South Euclid and trickling the ball into the basket a la Caddyshack.
Call #2: 2nd overtime, about 20 seconds left, Cavs up 1. Tyler Zeller shot fakes from the left baseline, drives into Hickson, double clutches a shot as he’s being hip checked and then catches his own miss and gets called for a travel. Zeller does the absolute right thing here: he puts the onus on the official to make a foul call for the hip check. In this case it’s either a turnover or a foul. In the case where it is a turnover or a foul, if the foul is obvious, it must be made. I don’t care if there’s 20 seconds left in the game. If those calls aren’t made, then in the last twenty seconds defenders can just hip check players out of bounds and not get calls. It was a doubly dubious non-call because Anderson Varejao got called for the exact same call on a Lillard drive in the first overtime when he went straight up with less contact against a driving Lillard.
I can live with the first two calls/non-calls . They suck, but calls like that happen. They’re judgment calls. Call #3 makes me not want to watch NBA games.
Call #3: 2nd overtime. In ONE OF THE WORST END OF GAME SEQUENCES I HAVE SEEN IN AN NBA BASKETBALL GAME, the Cavs are up 1 with 3.4 seconds left. Cavs have just rebounded rebound the ball after some great defense, and then are playing keep away from the Blazers. Alonzo Gee passes ahead to Pargo who has no one on him and can dribble out the clock. Gee clearly has gotten the pass away by 3.3 seconds left as can be seen here.
In real time, by the time clock is at 2.5 seconds (the time at which the foul occurred), the ball is in Pargo’s hands.
The game should be over. Amazingly, the refs give the Blazers a foul call and put Gee at the line. One of three things should have happened here:
- The clock should have been adjusted to a time that Gee actually had the ball, which was about 3.4 seconds, and the foul should have been called there. Of course he was never actually being fouled when he had the ball.
- The refs should have called this a foul on a player without the ball. According to the rules, the Cavs should have received a free throw and possession of the ball.
- The refs should not have called a foul and let the game end.
There are no other options. We all know what happened next. Gee made 1 of 2 at the line, the Blazers called timeout and Batum hit a ridiculous 3 pointer from the right corner to win. Now maybe if we get the ball and 1 freethrow, the result would have been similar. What GALLS me is that the refs never went to replay to settle this. They didn’t want to get the call right. They wanted to get out of town. Editor’s note. I’ve redacted this statement because it’s unfair and untrue. If anything, this call increases the odds of prolonging the game.
Furthermore, Byron Scott bears some culpability here as he never even lobbied for them to look at it, and seemed wholly aloof and unconcerned. There’s a point at which your aloofness is a detriment, Byron. It was tonight. Maybe the Blazers still win if we get a shot and the ball. I’m sure a parallel universe exists with this possibility.
And in the grand scheme of this universe one loss on a night at the beginning of December will not matter much, but the Cavs deserved this win. I wanted to write a glorious recap of this win. (It’s 3/4 written, and I don’t know if I can finish it). The universe seems arbitrary and capricious tonight, and NBA officiating should be better. Maybe Vince McMahon David Stern should pull a Popovich and send Leon Wood, Mark Lindsay, and Ed Malloy home from this road trip early.