Years ago, one of the NBA’s point of emphasis with officials was to do away with jump shooters leaning in or jumping to the side into a defender to draw a foul. Since that point, consistency on that call has wavered, and with that shooters are leaning into defenders closing out to draw the foul has become the norm.
Which brings us to a critical moment at the end of Game 6 between the Jazz and Thunder Friday night. With 21 seconds left on the clock, OKC’s Paul George pump faked then went up for a three from straight on to try to tie the game while Utah’s Rudy Gobert contested. There was contact, but no foul was called.
The reasoning from the referees as to why no foul was called — logic backed in the Last Two Minute Report Saturday — was because George jumped to his right to draw the contact and it was not a natural shooting motion. From the Report:
“(Video from behind the basket) shows that George (OKC) draws Gobert (UTA) into the air on a pump fake and Gobert jumps to the side of George. George leans into Gobert and creates contact. It is not clear and conclusive on video whether contact would have occurred without George’s lean into Gobert.”
Here is the video angle they are referring to.
By the letter of the law, George does lean in and in a strict definition maybe is not a foul (I would say it is). Here’s my issue: All season long that has been called a foul, in almost every case. There is no consistency in this call. In fact, let’s look at Victor Oladipo‘s third foul from Game 2, drawn by Kevin Love in the Pacers/Cavs series:
That was called a foul, when Love clearly jumps several feet to his right to intentionally draw contact in a shooting motion that is not natural, and he gets the call. Love has gotten away with that very play and drawn a lot of calls all season long. And he’s not alone.
This is something the league’s competition committee needs to take up this summer, then pass it along to officials — where is the line on this? There needs to be consistency, all season long and through the postseason. George’s lean was not that far (he may have drawn contact without it, we’ll never know), but officials can’t call that all season long then not with a team trying to salvage its season.
The referees are human, mistakes happen, but what everyone wants is just consistency. Draw a line then use it.