We Interrupt This Recap One More Time

December 30th, 2009 by John Krolik

Let’s just get the bad stuff out of the way first. On an absolutely crucial possession with the Hawks up a point with two minutes remaining, the shot clock at the Q didn’t reset, and the Hawks ended up turning the ball over with about one second left on a drive with one second left on the fake shot clock.

Whether or not Smith was conscious of the fake shot clock winding down, you have to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he was, and because of that the possession should’ve been started over with 1:57 left on the clock. (Kevin Arnovitz sums the situation up for TrueHoop here.)

The Hawks are planning to protest the game, and now somebody whose job I seriously do not want right now has to decide if the Hawks getting 10 less seconds than they were entitled to on a crucial possession is an important enough mishap to overturn the next two minutes of game action. Not a decision I would want to make by any stretch of the imagination.

My takeaway from this is that Mauer saw what had happened, saw there was a mistake, and (I’m assuming) had his hands tied by the rulebook, since there’s no concrete rule for taking away an opposing basket because of an earlier shot-clock mishap. (I found the 2004 edition of the rules, and there doesn’t seem to be a rule covering this situation, except for an extremely liberal interpretation of rule “j.”)

Now, what’s probably going to happen is that a rule governing this type of situation is going to be put into the rulebook very soon, or people will at least start clamoring for it.

But the greater issue here, in my opinion, is that crew chiefs need to have more discretion to use their common sense when there’s a strange situation like this with a completely obvious solution. It’s like theories on artificial intelligence; if you try to program a response for any and every situation, it doesn’t work, but if you give some guidelines that make sense and let behaviors emerge, then the program has a better chance of achieving its goals. If the goal is a fairly-officiated game, referees need to be able to use their common sense and actually make basic decisions in real-time instead of trying to predict everything that can possibly happen in an NBA game and planning a response.

So that’s unfortunate business, it does take away from the game, and Hawks fans are rightfully pissed. And of all the nights to have LeBron shoot more free throws than the opposing team, this was not the best one. Still, a great game did end up happening while the shot clock wasn’t malfunctioning, and the recap of it will be up in a little bit.