OAKLAND — Did you really expect anything else?
While there were a lot of things that led to the Cavaliers losing Game 1 — shooting 27 percent from three, the J.R. Smith moment of legend, questionable transition defense — the thing that bothered the Cavaliers most was the reversal of a charging call on Kevin Durant with 36.4 seconds remaining. They could have been up two with the ball, and instead, Durant hit a couple of free throws and the game was tied.
The Cavaliers were livid that a review was triggered, however, and as expected, the NBA backed the officials in the Last Two Minute Report.
The crew was not reasonably certain whether James (CLE) was in the restricted area after an offensive foul was called against Durant (GSW). Upon replay review, it was confirmed that James was outside the restricted area. The referees also reviewed whether James was in a legal guarding position, which is an additional reviewable matter for this replay trigger. Replay showed James was not in a legal guarding position because he was turning his body and moving into Durant when contact occurred. Thus the initial call on the floor was overturned and James was assessed a blocking foul.
Many people were confused, and this is rare, but in the final two minutes officials can overturn a charge/block call upon review. However, that review can only be triggered by the question of whether the blocking player was in the restricted area or not (sort of like reviewing if a shot was a 3 or a 2).
There are two issues here.
The one that has the Cavaliers upset the most is that a review was triggered at all — LeBron James was not that close to the restricted area. To use the legal phrasing, the overturn is the fruit of a poisonous tree.
“They called a charge, right?” a visibly frustrated Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said after the game. “And LeBron was clearly four feet outside the restricted area. So it doesn’t make sense to go review something… He wasn’t close.”
If one were cynical, one would note that referees Ken Mauer and Tony Brothers made opposing calls on the play — one a block, one a charge — then they settled on the restricted area question to go look at the tape. They knew he was outside the area, they just wanted another look at it.
The second question is: Did they get the call right?
I think they did. I think it was a block. However, this was a bang-bang NBA play and it could be argued either way. NBA officials live in a gray area and this is right in the middle of it.
Steve Kerr was asked about the rule and said he’d like to see less replay in the NBA, not more. With charge/block calls in particular, I agree. Are referees going to get some wrong? Yes. Human error is part of the game — put in systems to lessen it, but it’s going to exist.
The league thought there was one missed call in the final two minutes: With 12.1 seconds left, the referees missed a Draymond Green foul out high on LeBron as he tried to get set for his last shot.
Also, the report says there was a lane violation on George Hill‘s second free throw, but that it did not impact the play.
Bottom line, as it always is with the Last Two Minutes Reports, it’s all moot. Nothing changes.
And we move on to Game 2 and see if the Cavaliers can bounce back from that punch to the gut.