Did late-game officiating cost Knicks a win against Hawks?

AP Photo/Todd Kirkland
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After the Hawks’ 142-139 quadruple overtime win over the Knicks on Sunday, Paul Millsap said:

“That was fun,” Millsap said. “I don’t want to do that again ever, but it was fun.”

But the NBA’s Last Two Minute report — which acknowledged 12 missed calls, seven favoring Atlanta and five favoring New York over the final two minutes of the fourth quarter and each overtime period — requires recreating portions of the game to determine whether late officiating errors rob the Knicks of a win?

By quantity, New York came out behind on missed calls. But not all missed calls are created equally. So, I dug deeper into the missed calls I found consequential. Generally, I ignore times the offensive team gets away with a violation and doesn’t score anyway and times the defensive team gets away with a violation and gets scored on anyway.

We know the fourth quarter and each of the first three overtime periods ended tied. So, any missed calls that would’ve given a team a lead when the clock read zeroes could stop this exercise. So, I break down my analysis by period.

Fourth quarter

With 1:11 left, Joakim Noah should have been called for offensively fouling Dennis Schroder:

Noah (NYK) sets the screen on Schroder (ATL) and does not give him room to avoid the contact.

A correct call would’ve ended the Knicks’ possession. Instead, they hit a 3-pointer.

With 30.2 seconds left, Dennis Schroder helped Atlanta secure a defensive rebound by grabbing Joakim Noah, contact that should have induced a loose-ball foul:

Schroder (ATL) clamps the arm of Noah (NYK) and affects his ability to retrieve the rebound.

A correct call would’ve put the Hawks into the penalty and meant two free throws for Noah, who’s shooting just 43% from the line this season — including this infamous miss — and 70% for his career

Paul Millsap got away with a shooting foul for disrupting Carmelo Anthony‘s speed/quickness/balance//rhythm with 3.5 seconds left:

Millsap (ATL) makes contact to the body of Anthony (NYK) that affects his SQBR on the driving shot attempt.

He made the shot anyway, but a correct call would’ve give Anthony — who’s shooting 83% from the line this season and 81% for his career — an additional free throw.

In sum, missed calls in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter allowed the Knicks to score three extra points and cost New York three free throws, two by Noah one by Anthony. At best for the Knicks, that’s a wash that leads to overtime, anyway. Considering Noah’s horrendous free-throw shooting, the result probably would’ve just been New York losing in regulation.

But considering he never got the clutch attempts for us to find out, we’ll continue.

First overtime

If you’re willing to suppose they would’ve made all three free throws missed calls deprived them of late in the fourth quarter, the Knicks can point to this call as the one that really burned them.

Dwight Howard got away with a defensive three-second violation with 1:14 left:

Howard (ATL) is in the paint without actively guarding an opponent for longer than three seconds.

Stifled by Howard’s presence, the Knicks settled for an Anthony 3-pointer, which missed and was defensively rebounded.
A correct call would’ve given any Knick on the floor — likely Courtney Lee, who’s shooting 89% from the line this season and 85% for his career — a single free throw. New York also would’ve gotten the ball back with a fresh shot clock.

Second overtime

Anthony was incorrectly called for a shooting foul on Schroder, who scored anyway and missed the free throw. Of greater consequence: Anthony fouled out. However, he also got away with a foul in the fourth quarter (on a possession where Atlanta scored anyway).

Third overtime

Schroder bouncing ball into the stands and not drawing a technical foul occurred with 2:21 left, so the two-minute report doesn’t address it.

But an acknowledged missed call would’ve given Schroder a free throw when Justin Holiday got away with a shooting foul with 4.4 seconds left:

Holiday (NYK) makes contact with Schroder’s (ATL) body that affects his drive to the basket and shot attempt.

He still scored to tie it, but Schroder — who’s shooting 82% from the line this season and 80% for his career — was deprived a chance at a go-ahead free throw that could’ve ended the game here.

Obviously, Atlanta won any way, but this missed call detracts from the significance of any missed calls favoring the Hawks in the fourth overtime.

Fourth overtime

Malcolm Delaney got away with committing a shooting foul on Brandon Jennings with 1:26 left:

Delaney (ATL) makes contact with Jennings’ (NYK) body that affects his drive to the basket and shot attempt.

A correct call would’ve meant two free throws for Jennings, who’s shooting 76% from the line this season and 80% for his career.

Instead, New York came up empty on this possession.

Down two later in the period, the Knicks began intentionally fouling.

We obviously don’t know how changing any of these missed calls would’ve affected the rest of the game. But the final two calls, uncalled loose-ball fouls as players fought for rebounds, especially clearly happened in situations that never would’ve occurred if New York didn’t have to intentionally foul.

Did officiating errors cost the Knicks the game? There is a case to be made, but it must include Noah sinking 2-of-2 free throws late in the fourth quarter.