To my eye — and by the NBA rulebook as I read it — there were two illegal tip-ins in the final minute of overtime between the Bulls and Nuggets Monday night.
Only one was reviewed on video. Only one got overturned. The Bulls lost by one point and Tom Thibodeau has every right to be mad.
Let’s start with the rule. Here is the interpretation of the rule direct from the NBA’s video officiating page (which had video examples):
Players are not allowed to touch the ball while any part of the ball remains in the cylinder above the basket ring. On this play, the offensive player taps the ball into the basket while the ball is still in the cylinder above the basket.
Players ARE allowed to tap, touch or rebound a shot attempt when the ball has rolled off of the basket ring and is outside of the imaginary cylinder.
Some people, both national talking heads and commenters online, say that you can touch the ball as it is rolling off the rim. Watching the NBA’s videos and reading that above, it reads to me that you can only touch the missed shot once it is outside the cylinder completely.
In the case of the first tap in, Denver was down one (115-114) with 50 seconds left when Ty Lawson drives the lane and misses the layup. Kosta Koufos comes in and with both hands tips it in — except replays clearly showed the ball was sitting on the rim and over the cylinder when it was tipped. In my mind that is offensive goaltending,
The referees didn’t review it because there was no call on which to base a replay.
Now we come to the Bulls final shot with 5.7 seconds left (the video above has a tip in between the controversial ones, that middle one is not in dispute). Marco Belinelli brought the ball up the left wing and took a hurried, off-balance jumper that was short, but Joakim Noah comes flying in, tipped the ball in and the United Center went crazy.
But it shouldn’t have counted and the refs got it right. Despite what the Bulls’ broadcasters say on the video above, that was an illegal tip in. The ball was on its way down and over the cylinder. The refs got the call right, that basket should not have counted.
The question is: Why did it get reviewed? Unlike the Koufos tip, this was called goaltending at the time (it was drowned out by the crowd). During a Denver timeout it was reviewed and the goaltending call was confirmed. As I said, it’s the correct call. It’s just not fair that only one of those calls can get reviewed.
You can expect an explanation from the league later today on this. But to me, both were illegal tip ins but just one was called. And the Bulls paid the price for that.