On the final play of the Lakers’ overtime win over the Timberwolves on Wednesday, Minnesota had a sideline out of bounds opportunity, trailing by two with 0.3 seconds left.
That’s not enough time to get an actual shot off, but it is enough for a tip towards the basket — provided the pass can reach the intended player, without that player being fouled before it gets there.
The NBA’s Last Two Minute report says that Andrew Wiggins was indeed fouled before the ball arrived, which presumably would have given him a chance to tie it at the free throw line had the referees blown the whistle.
“After inbound, but prior to the touch, Clarkson grabs Wiggins’ arm, preventing him from catching the pass,” the report says.
The problem here is that there’s just such a small chance of Wiggins being able to do anything in that situation, with so little time on the clock and having a tip-shot as his only option. The referees clearly weighed this at the time, and perhaps believed that the ball wouldn’t have reached Wiggins anyway, even if Clarkson hadn’t made the contact that the league deemed to be illegal the very next day.