On one of the final plays in Game 5 between the Clippers and the Thunder, Matt Barnes appeared to foul Reggie Jackson on a shot attempt at the rim, followed by Jackson knocking the ball out of bounds.
Foul calls are not reviewable under the league’s instant replay rules, but matters of possession are. And despite the video evidence to the contrary, the referees on the scene made what appeared to be the wrong call, and the NBA backed it up a day later with an official release.
Somewhat incredibly, we were faced with almost the exact same situation near the end of Miami’s Game 5 win over the Nets.
With the Heat leading by two and under seven seconds remaining, Paul Pierce was hacked on the arm by LeBron James. But no foul was called, and Pierce appeared to be the last one to touch it before the ball went out of bounds. After an official review, the foul wasn’t awarded, because it couldn’t have been according to the rules of replay. The Nets maintained possession, though, despite the fact that the ball should have been awarded to Miami.
Now, page 30 of the NBA’s official rule book seems to cover this situation, and it reads as follows:
“If a player has his hand in contact with the ball and an opponent hits the hand causing the ball to go out-of-bounds, the team whose player had his hand on the ball will retain possession.”
This seems to be a catch-all for situations where the referees don’t call a foul — either by choice, or because they just missed it — but it’s hard to explain to fans watching in real time who (a) saw the foul that wasn’t called, and then (b) witnessed the ball clearly go off of a player, only to see it awarded to his team nonetheless.
Either way, the Nets were given a final chance to tie or take the lead because of this interpretation. It didn’t impact the game’s outcome, so it’s unlikely we’ll see it addressed the way we did the play from the end of Game 5 between the Clippers and the Thunder. But it’s kind of crazy that we’re dealing with such a specifically controversial situation for the second straight night during these playoffs.