The question wasn’t “did the officials correctly interpret the clock rules at the end of the Raptors/Kings game Sunday?” They did. Well except for almost a second that is missing from the clock late. Rather, the real question is “why is that the rule in the first place?”
Monday the NBA’s official “two-minute report” looking at the calls in the final two minutes of close games backed the official’s handling of the play.
To recap, in case you haven’t see this (the video is above): The Kings led 102-97 late when Sacramento’s Darren Collison fouled Kyle Lowry on a three-pointer with :27.4 left. Lowry hit two of the three free throws, at which point the Kings got the rebound and the clock said 26.4, although in the arena there was more according to some angles. The Kings tried to run out the clock they didn’t hit the rim on a shot, leading to a :24-second violation, and the Kings got the ball back with 2.4 seconds on the clock. On the ensuing inbound pass at halfcourt, DeMarcus Cousins tips the pass, but the clock didn’t start immediately. Toronto’s Terrence Ross picked up the ball, took two dribbles and nailed the three to force overtime. Except, upon review, the referees said that the clock should have started when Cousins touched the ball and that meant the shot did not get off on time. The officials waived off the shot. Game over.
Here are the two key sticking points. This is straight from the report:
The report says at :27.4 left Collison did foul Lowry on his three, and they consulted with the instant replay center and confirmed the call. All of that is right and proper. Did it take a second for Cousins to get the rebound on the missed shot and time out to be called? Some shots in the arena saying there were 27.2 seconds on the clock, Patrick Patterson pointed that out as well, there is a discrepancy about how much time is on the clock. That extra time would have mattered.
As for the final play, here is what the report said:
The on-court referees noticed a clock malfunction on the inbounds play and correctly triggered an instant replay. After communicating with the Replay Center, it was determined that the clock should have started when Cousins (SAC) tips the ball and run to 0:00.00 before Ross’ (TOR) shot was released.
Again, the question isn’t did the referees get it right, as much as is that a fair rule? For the guy taking the shot, he has to go by the clock on the court that he is looking at, and Ross did that. Could Ross have gotten off that shot more quickly if the clock started on time? Maybe not, but now we are getting into speculation about what would or would not have been different, that was not the reality at the time.
The fact is that the referee/clock operator messed up and the Raptors paid the price. That’s not good optics for the NBA.
The fair thing here would be to allow a replay of the final 2.4 (or more accurate 3.4) seconds of the game. That’s not the rule right now, but it should be.