Celtics made late comeback by hacking LeBron James while he inbounded the ball (video)

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BOSTON – LeBron James might think he knows more than David Blatt – and he might – but the Cavaliers coach had a little more experience with a potentially critical play Sunday.

Isaiah Thomas made a layup with 37.5 seconds left, and his momentum carried him under the basket. LeBron took the ball out of bounds, and Thomas reached from behind LeBron to hit the ball/LeBron. Avery Bradley stole the inbound, got fouled and made both free throws to cut Cleveland’s lead to six with 37.1 seconds remaining. (The clock didn’t run immediately when Bradley touched the ball, either.)

The Cavaliers hung on to win, 101-93, but the non-call on Thomas on such a strange play could have been huge.

“I don’t think it’s every happened before,” LeBron said. “Not in my career.”

Blatt, who has coached over overseas for years, wasn’t quite as shocked.

“Have I seen it? Yeah,” Blatt said. “It’s an automatic technical foul over there. I don’t know what they call it here.”

On that, LeBron answered quickly and similarly.

“That’s an automatic technical,” LeBron said

They’re right. NBA rules say:

A delay-of-game shall be called for:

(5) A defender crossing the boundary line prior to the ball being released on a throw-in.

EXCEPTION (5): In the last two minutes of the fourth period and last two minutes of any overtime period, a technical foul will be assessed if the defender crosses or breaks the plane of the boundary line when an offensive player is in a position to inbound and prior to the ball being released on a throw-in.

This hasn’t been a great postseason for the NBA’s referees. How they missed this call, I have no idea. Thankfully, it didn’t affect the winner of the game – or the point spread (Cavaliers –7.5).